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Picasso's Poetry of the 1930's
Some of imagery in Picasso's poems of the 1930's is directly related to imagery in "The Unknown Masterpiece." At times, the degree of correspondence is striking. There are even suggestions, in some of Picasso's poems, that he may have been referring to "The Unknown Masterpiece" itself. Because of the private and surreal nature the poems however, they are at times, difficult to interpret with confidence.
In his book about Guernica, Prof. Hershel B. Chipp, quotes fellow art historian, Jose Barrio-Garay's interpretation of one of Picasso's 1935 poems.

He writes:

'...Barrio Garay notes a figure he identifies as Marie-Thérèse, portrayed by Picasso as a jaca or young female horse, 'a nude lion masquerading as a bullfighter' and 'a woman with long blonde hair who is confined behind an iron door and hides her shame under a tablecloth'.

He goes on:

'Although she gets the painter out of trouble, she is 'the target of obscene insults' and is ultimately reduced to the miserable state of the wounded horse in the bullfight, 'making the round of the ring bleeding and dragging its guts.'

In "The Unknown Masterpiece," Marie-Therese, is again personified as the wounded horse in the bullfight. The 'U' shaped darts stabbing into her shoulder and neck, which seem to originate from a cache of similar forms behind Olga's back, would appear to symbolise the 'obscene insults' of the poems. The darts are also suggestive of the banderillas thrown at the bull's neck in the bullfight. The transposition of the bull and horse is typical of Picasso. The identification of the horse with Marie-Thérèse is again reinforced by the silhouette of a horse's head, below her shoulder and her distorted left arm which is itself, reminiscent of a horse's bent leg. The thick 'Z" shaped line running through her eyes and jabbing into her neck also appears to symbolise, in a couple of swift strokes, the traditional blindfolding and cutting of the horse's vocal chords prior to the bullfight.

This 'Z' shaped line is also part of a cryptic 'Picazzo' signature. A second 'Z' from the signature appears under Olga's neck. The symbolic silencing of the horse by one of the 'magical' letters of Picasso's name, refers too, to the secretive relationship Picasso is said to have enforced on Marie-Thérèse, prior to the birth of their daughter Maya in 1935.

The following is a list of corresponding imagery found in both "The Unknown Masterpiece" and Picasso's poem of 1935*:

The eye of the Bull
The curtain
The painter
The bunch of flowers
The light falling
The iron door
Constantly adjusting skirt
Wounding and stabbing
Flying darts
Female bullfighter
Hiding shame under tablecloth
Bandaged eyes
The painter's long hair
Two halves, (the half that smiles, the half that sighs).

*Based on a translation commissioned in 1992.

In possible reference to "The Unknown Masterpiece," a study entitled, 'Picasso et la corrida', published in 1991, by the French art-historian, M.L. Bernadac, also refers to associated imagery in Picasso's art and poetry. The following extract relates to a theatre curtain and a conflict between the bull and horse, in the context of a never ending drama, captured in a mysterious black painting, that seems to have gone missing:

The bull's horn opens the gourd of old wine of the horse's stomach and the cave which lights up the oil of his blood splashes the curtains with his entrails mixing in the threads of the theatre curtain the illusion of the drama taking place. (Poem dated 2.2.36) - Translated from Bernadac, page 69.


The never ending link of the black painting on waxed canvas un-nailed from the frame, enveloping the drama under it's folds. (poem dated 11.2.37) - Translated from Bernadac, Page 70.

And again, in Gertrude Stein's, 'Picasso', published in 1938, there is further, very likely reference to "The Unknown Masterpiece." Stein appears to have mistakenly associated this however, with a Picasso collage:

'Later he used to say quite often, paper lasts quite as well and after all if it all ages together, why not, and he said further, after all, later, no one will see the picture, they will see the legend of the picture, the legend that the picture has created, then it makes no difference if the picture lasts or does not last. Later they will restore it, a picture lives by it's legend, not by anything else.' Stein, page 27.

There is a very similar remark mentioned on page 40 of Brassai's book, 'Picasso and Co.'

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