Long-Forgotten Picasso Painting Found in a Closet in Maine

A bygone Picasso painting was found hidden away in a closet in the US state, Maine. It sold for more than $150,000 in an auction in early July by John McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

In a statement on the auctioneer’s website, the seller—who has chosen to remain anonymous—described that they found the piece in their late great aunt’s house, who, together with their grandmother, studied art in Europe during the 1920s and reportedly collected rare books and art.

“Each enjoyed collecting objects from their travels… Each led an interesting life with uncommon travels which was afforded to them through their uncle who owned mills in Maine,” the seller explained in their statement. “There were several paintings kept in a closet for 50 years… which were left by her at the time of the passing of the house to my father and now to me.”

The 15-by-15-inch mixed media work on paper was identified as a rare Pablo Picasso work complete with the artist’s signature in the bottom righthand corner, dated to 1919. According to the Associated Press (AP), experts from the Amesbury auction house in Massachusetts determined the finding to be a maquette, a preliminary mock-up, for a monumental stage curtain for the ballet Le Tricorne (The Three-Cornered Hat). The Spanish artist worked on the project in 1919. According to the auctioneers, this is a one-of-a-kind piece from the artist’s Cubistic period. 

In early 20th Century Europe, Picasso gained traction through his experiments with different styles, including Cubism. Some of his most famous geometric paintings include GuernicaLes Demoiselles d’Avignon, and The Weeping Woman. They are all worth several millions.

Photo of Picasso, GBH/AP

However, it is lesser-known that the Spanish artist also worked as a theatre designer. The National Opera of Paris points out that Picasso’s contributions ranged from merely conceptualising a stage curtain to designing all. He designed sets over costumes to the curtains, as was the case for the ballets Parade (1917), Le Tricorne (The Three-Cornered Hat, 1919), Pulcinella (1920), and Mercure (1924).

Despite the sale being in process already, the artwork has yet to be authenticated by the Picasso Administration, which is managed by the son of the artist Claude Picasso, a photographer and filmmaker. The buyer has now at least 120 days to get through this process, which has to be finished before the sale can be completed.