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Pablo Picasso (Spain/France 1881‑1973)

”Études d’après une main en bois de l’ile de paques”

To be sold at our Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary Art + Design & Watches 14 – 16 May 2024

Lot 525 Pablo Picasso (Spain/France 1881‑1973). ”Études d’après une main en bois de l’ile de paques”. Signed and dated Picasso 12 Decembre 45 Picasso lower right. Ink on paper, 28.5 x 38 cm (image), 39 x 50 cm (paper).


300.000 – 400.000 SEK
€ 26.000 – 34.000


A Swedish private collection.


Pierre Loeb, Voyages a travers la peinture, 1945, illustrated as pl. VII.
Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso, vol. 14, œuvres de 1944 à 1946, 1963, no. 129, illustrated p. 60.
Paul G. Bahn, Catherine Orliac & Michel Orliac, Picasso and the Easter Island “palm”, article published in Rapa Nui Journal, vol. 29, May 2015, illustrated p. 48.

Four studies of a somewhat peculiar hand and underarm tells us the story about Pablo Picasso’s great fascination about and connection to the pre-historical. His interest in the Oceania seems to have developed during a visit to the Musée du Trocadéro and this utterly interesting object was gifted to Picasso from his dealer-friend Pierre Loeb (1897-1964). The hand is a highly unusual artefact from the Easter Island and shows a strong connection to another hand in the British Museum. This arm first appears in a book by Macmillan Brown from 1924, where he ascertains that it has been collected on the island by the German geologist and meteorologist Walter Knoche during an expedition in 1911. The carved hand was originally probably made as a separate object to be held in ritual dances on the island. In 1945 Pierre Loeb shared his memories of the hand, published in his book Voyages a travers la peinture (as translated by Bahn, Orliac & Orliac in an article in Rapa Nui Journal, May 2015):

“One day, in the faubourg Saint-Honoré, I entered the establishment of Mettler, the youngest of our colleagues… I spotted a display case filled with fetishes from Easter Island: there were small bearded characters, with prominent cheekbones and ribs, skeletal, slightly curved, bending forwards and incredibly sad. Among them were two exceptional objects: The first was an almost life-size head; from the place where normally the ears occur, there emerged two stiff little atrophied arms. The sculptor had clearly followed the design of the stump that had been picked up or, if it is true that there are no trees on the island, from some debris of a boat found on the beach.

The second object was a forearm with its hand. Carved in a very hard wood, it ended at the articulation of the elbow with a slight ridge, carved into a crown. The hand, curved at the side, is short, with fingers with equal thick phalanges, and even the nails are depicted. One has no idea what this object may have been. Only one other of the same type is known, half destroyed, and is in the British Museum. It was probably a scepter or a sorcery fetish.

This hand, a little smaller than that of a normal man, is strikingly realistic, and exceptionally sensitive, accentuated even further by lines engraved in the hollow of the palm. Like all the sculptures of Easter Island, this one gives off an impression of solitude, equaled only by that of the island itself, lost in the heart of the Pacific, and whose civilization remains a mystery. I would never have wanted to part with it, but Picasso saw it and desired it. A friend wrote me a last letter from France, in 1942. She had telephoned the great artist to give him news of me, and he had told her: ‘Do you know what I have in my hand at this very moment? The Easter Island hand that Pierre gave me.’”

The current whereabout of Picasso’s Easter Island hand seems to be unknown. Apart from the drawing included in this sale, signed and dated 12 December 1945, the hand does also appear in other known artworks. The first is a photograph taken by Brassaï in 1942 that depicts Picasso’s well-known sculpture “Bull’s Head” from the same year, that was a creation by the artist where he used the handlebar of a bicycle for the horns and a saddle for the head. In Brassaï’s photograph, the Easter Island hand is lying across the sculpture, as if the hand is covering the eyes of the bull.

The second, was Picasso’s sculpture “The Woman in a Long Dress”, Cowling and Golding tells us about its creation (1994:31): “in 1943 Picasso picked up a dressmaker’s dummy from the turn of the century, added to it a head of his own devising and two arms, one from the Easter Island (this hand had been a gift to him from Pierre Loëb), and another more primitive one, again fashioned by himself: ‘The Woman in a Long Dress’ was subsequently either destroyed or dismantled, but fortunately not before a bronze cast
of her had been made.” 

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