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Picasso’s “Femme à la Montre” Set to Make Art Auction History

In the world of fine art, anticipation is mounting as one of Pablo Picasso’s masterpieces, “Femme à la Montre” or “Woman in Watch,” is poised for auction. Art connoisseurs and collectors are abuzz with excitement as experts predict this iconic piece, created in 1932, could fetch a staggering sum exceeding $120 million.

Sotheby’s, the renowned New York City-based fine art auction house, is entrusted with the sale of this coveted work of art. If the pre-sale estimate holds true, “Femme à la Montre” will earn the distinction of becoming the second most expensive Picasso painting ever to grace the auction block.

Scheduled for a single-night auction in November, Sotheby’s New York will present this remarkable painting to the world. However, this canvas, steeped in history and intrigue, had its roots in the private collection of the esteemed New York philanthropist, art collector, and patron, Emily Fisher Landau. Sadly, Ms. Landau passed away in March at the remarkable age of 102.

“Femme à la Montre” is among the 120 works comprising The Emily Fisher Landau Collection, a testament to her lifelong dedication to the world of art. Sotheby’s New York has set the stage for the auction, slated to take place on Wednesday, Nov. 8, and Thursday, Nov. 9, offering a range of bidding options, including online, over the phone, and in-person.

Emily Fisher Landau’s connection with this iconic painting dates back to 1968 when she embarked on her art collection journey. This exquisite impressionist piece adorned the mantle in her New York residence, serving as a tangible testament to her passion for art.

Yet, “Femme à la Montre” is not just a masterpiece; it carries a fascinating history with it. Picasso, in his portrayal of the muse and mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, inadvertently unraveled a tale of love and turmoil. His choice to depict her wearing one of his cherished watches was more than mere artistry; it symbolized the highest honor he could bestow upon her. This act, however, came at the cost of his marriage to Russian-Ukrainian dancer Olga Khokhlova.

As Sotheby’s notes, “The truth was out, and Picasso’s marriage with Olga was over.” The painting serves as a significant marker in the artist’s personal and creative journey.

Remarkably, “Femme à la Montre” is one of only three major works by Picasso featuring a wristwatch, highlighting the artist’s profound passion for exceptional timepieces. Picasso himself owned three high-end watches, adding another layer of depth to the painting. The watch, in this context, becomes a symbol of the transience of both love and life, harkening back to the centuries-old tradition of Vanitas painting.

Sotheby’s has a history of successful Picasso sales, including notable pieces like “Boy With a Pipe,” “Dora Maar with Cat,” and “Woman Wearing a Beret and Checkered Dress.” However, Picasso’s most expensive painting sold at auction remains “Women of Algiers,” also known as “Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’),” which fetched a staggering $179.37 million in 2015, sold by Christie’s, a British auction house with a global presence.

As art enthusiasts and collectors eagerly await the November auction, “Femme à la Montre” promises not only to make history but also to provide a window into the complex world of Picasso’s artistry and his tumultuous personal life. The bidding war that ensues will determine the next chapter in the journey of this iconic masterpiece.

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