Picasso Museum of Barcelona

The divan
Signed P. Ruiz Picasso- in the bottom right-hand corner
Barcelona, around 1899
Charcoal, pastel and coloured crayons on glazed paper
26.2 x 29.7 cm
Plandiura acquisition, 1932
MPB 4.267

The Work

The Divan represents a regular scene from night-time venues, taverns and brothels in late-19th century Barcelona around the barri xinès (red light district) which Picasso knew well.

The characters hardly show their faces, whilst the world of objects is clearly marked by strong thick brushstrokes, as if he wants to mark out the joint presence. In this way, the table is separated, placing itself precisely to the fore and fragmentarily concealing the couple.

Two paintings stand out in the background, one depicting a female nude which is to mark out the venue’s brothel status.

There is even a figure hiding amongst thick lines who would appear again in Picasso's work - La Celestina (The Procuress). Although the centre of the work is the loving couple on the sofa, it is the old inquisitive-looking procuress who really creates dramatic tension and accentuates the scene’s expressionism.
The Museu Picasso houses some drawings from 1897-1898 and 1901 of La Celestina – a character from Spanish literary tradition. This character also occupies a major work from the Blue Period and is housed at the Musée national Picasso in Paris. In 1968, Picasso created a series of engravings dedicated to La Celestina.

The use of orange-like tones should be pointed out, highlighting the green background of the wall and helping to emphasise the scene's importance. The work is still steeped in the autonomous expressionism of the Catalan painter Isidre Nonell and is a prelude to the drawings Picasso would soon produce in Paris.


Room 5