When Pablo Picasso moved to Château de Boisgeloup in 1931, he had already returned to sculpture in the round, after experimenting in iron plate with Julio González. In the new studio, Picasso created a legendary group of works, among which La femme au vase (Woman with Vase) is the greatest in both size and presence. The main feature of these sculptures was the monumentality of certain forms that came from the process of synthesising the figure using protruding oval shapes, which Picasso himself mentioned in 1932, saying that they were an attempt at “pure form and distinct volume.” They were also remarkable for having been done using the traditional technique of modelling and casting in plaster, which produced a powerful, shining presence captured on film by Brassaï in 1932. The complete freedom that Picasso allowed himself in deforming the figure to get at the monumentality is clearly visible in the group, which is remarkable for the strange, aggressive, boundless beauty of the inflated female figures. The disproportionately large arm holding the vase or offering, its physical female power, like a goddess of fertility, and the monumentality inherent in the Iberian sculpture so admired by Picasso are the principal plastic attributes of a work the concrete version of which was shown at the Spanish Pavilion of the International Exposition in Paris in 1937. Around 1972, Picasso commissioned the bronze casting of two editions from the Valsuani Foundation. One of them stands in the garden at Château de Vauvernargues, over the artist’s grave; the other is this piece, at the Museo Reina Sofía, which was part of the Picasso Legacy that the Spanish nation received in 1985.
Carmen Fernández Aparicio