Picasso Museum of Barcelona

Dedicated para el Museo de Arte Moderno, Paris, 30 September 1935
Etching and scraping
49.8 x 69.3 cm
Donated by the artist, 1938
MPB 45.006
Not on display

The Work

The Minotaur – the mythological creature with the body of a man and head of a bull – is one of the main protagonists in Picasso’s work from the 30s, both in painting and graphic work, and it is the theme of this supreme Picasso engraving, Minotauromachy, considered to be one of the best in the 20th century.

It is a perfect scraped etching from spring 1935 and printed by Roger Lacourière.

A symbolically difficult-to-interpret piece, it is a synthesis of an entire series of works based around the myth. The main characters are: a girl holding a candle and a bunch of flowers confronting the beast with a serene expression; a large Minotaur in the centre of the composition; a wounded female bullfighter (suggesting Marie Thérèse Walter as a model who Picasso had a long relationship with), with her breasts exposed and falling from a horse; to the left there is an almost naked bearded man on a ladder running away; and in the upper area are two youths observing the scene from a window with doves.

Minotauromachy was created a year before the Spanish Civil War started and is considered to be one of the immediate precedents to Guernica.

There are also examples of Minotauromachy at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York and at the Musée national Picasso in Paris.

Other ‘Minotaur’ Engravings

The 30s were a great period for Picasso’s graphic production. As well as Minotauromachy, there are the outstanding 100 etchings comprising the Suite Vollard, the series of engravings made by Picasso between 1930 and 1937 and published by his dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1939.

With regards to the theme, the engravings revolve around five groups: ‘The Rape’, ‘The Sculptor’s Studio’, ‘Rembrandt’, ‘Minotaur’ and ‘Blind Minotaur’. Others have no specific theme and three are portraits of Vollard himself.

The Museu Picasso houses 28 engravings from the Suite Vollard. For conservation reasons, works on paper are not on permanent display in the rooms. The effect of light is accumulative and leads to photo-chemical changes in the works shown.