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Madre con niño muerto en escalera (I). Dibujo preparatorio para «Guernica» (Mother with Dead Child on Ladder [I]. Sketch for "Guernica")

  • Date: 
    1937 (May 9th, Paris)
  • Technique: 
    Graphite on paper
  • Dimensions: 
    45,3 x 24 cm
  • Category: 
    Work on paper, Drawing
  • Entry date: 
    1995
  • Register number: 
    DE00067
From Saturday May 1st, 1937, in the attic of number 7 Rue des Grands-Augustins in Paris, where Balzac had written Le chef-d’oeuvre inconnu (The Unknown Masterpiece) in 1831, Pablo Picasso worked on the collection of sketches and studies for his mural Guernica, which constitute a whole that is inseparable from the painting, clarifying and completing its meanings. Picasso worked on these preparatory studies before also beginning the definitive composition on canvas in the same studio.
One of the most inspirational themes for both the studies and Guernica itself was the mother holding the dead child, screaming as she runs terrified from an attack by something or someone that the painter has deliberately hidden from view. Like other motifs connected to the mural, other versions of this exist. The woman might appear beside a burning building or holding the child in one arm or the other, as is the case in various oils, and the sketches Caballo y madre con niño muerto (Horse and Mother with Dead Child – May 8th) and Madre con niño muerto (Mother with Dead Child – May 13th). Another variant is the one represented in this drawing, Madre con niño muerto en escalera (I) (Mother with Dead Child on Ladder [I], May 9th), where this new iconographic element is brought in.

Paloma Esteban Leal

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