Pablo Picasso’s gemmaux, Seated Woman with Red Hat, recently discovered at Indiana’s Evansville Museum, is an exquisite, and rare gem from his vast oeuvre. Because of a clerical error, that left the glass work filed away in storage for fifty years, we (an appreciative audience) are fortunate to experience this beautiful work of art once again, which gives credence to the notion that Pablo Picasso is the one and only modern master of the 20th century!
We don’t want or need to find too much fault with the Evansville Museum for the slippage in cataloging, since it likely occurred in 1963, when an industrial designer Raymond Loewy donated the gemmaux. Still, I have questions about this error. For example, did Raymond Loewy himself know it was a Picasso? Did he have any idea about the provenance of the piece?
Jean Cocteau had mentored Pablo on this glass art technique, known as gemmaux, in the 1950s, probably in southern France (I’ll need to expand my research on this chapter in Picasso’s versatile career). Some 50 of these gemmauxs were created; but when did Loewy acquire Seated Woman with Red Hat? In other words, it couldn’t have been too terribly long after Picasso had created the work.
Then again, Picasso signed it quite clearly in the top right-hand corner of the work. His signature is utterly distinctive and he signs every work exactly the same. Just about any local-yocal of a curmudgeon knows his signature, so I don’t see how Raymond Loewy wouldn’t have known? Then again, had he known, you wonder whether he would have just given the art treasure away for free to Evansville!
I suspect he didn’t know it was a Picasso. Moreover, Evansville probably never suspected what they had back in 1963, since they mistakenly classified the technique of gemmaux as the name of the artist. This is the grave nature of the clerical error, that occurred some 50 years ago.
And yet a profound beauty, an irony and historic, consequential happenstance beams forth as a halo of fortune (possibly a gift of Providence), for Evansville Museum and for millions of art lovers! Put more prosaically, the cards fell just in the right order.
My rhapsodic chiming on the randomness of history may be misplaced. In 1963, Picasso was not yet dead, and the value of any one of his works hadn’t yet reached the astronomical proportions of value and premium, they now embrace so consummately and hardily. Therefore, not enough care was employed by art dealers to apply detective-like concentration, in tracking the provenance of every single work that Picasso ever put his paws on.
Speaking of paws, what’s up with the arm (and slender, grasping long fingers) that reach out and caress the face of the woman with a red hat? And yet she grips the phantom wrist in anticipation of some kind of physical encounter. The lady herself is very pretty and looks like an ancient Minoan princess. One can’t help but wonder whether she’s one of the many ‘Ladies of the Night,’ we frequently hear about with Mr. Picasso.
His works are often charged with an out-of-this-world sexual exuberance and energy, and this work is no different. And yet the action in the glasswork transcends to a symbolical plateau (this is not just sex, it’s something else?) Because of this and because of the unusual medium, I believe it will fetch millions for Evansville at auction. When’s the last time you inspected your attic for what was once thought of as trash?
Indiana Museum Finds Lost Picasso ‘Seated Woman with Red Hat’ In Storage After 50 Years (PHOTO)