Sitting back in a cushy red easy-chair, a woman is portrayed in a pensive and sensual pose. With her temple leaning on one hand, she holds an open book in the other, the pages of which offer the shadow of her open hand. Behind her, a mirror reflects her profile. The form and colours leave no room for doubt - it’s a Picasso and the model is Marie-Thérèse Walker, young lover of the artist, in one of the most similar-looking depictions created by the painter. But Woman with a Book (1932) hides a secret. “Minor artists borrow, great artists steal,” the inventor of Cubism once said. And so, this portrait of Marie-Thérèse mirrors one of his most beloved paintings, the Madame Moitessier (1856) by Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres. The two paintings will meet for the first time this Spring at the National Gallery with the arrival of the Picasso from the Norton Simon Museum of Pasadena, while the painting from the 1800s has had a home in Trafalgar Square for quite some time. It seems like the genius of the 1900s saw the work for the first time in 1921 - he was so struck by it that the inspiration was still alive eleven years later when, in an homage to the neo-classical master, he made flowers bloom on the sleeve of the dress of Marie-Therese. The pose of the right hand, meanwhile, is from a fresco by Ercolano, where the hand belonged to none other than the divinity Arcadia - majestic and regal, Madame Moitessier thus becomes the incarnation of the classical, a contemporary goddess reigning in the luxury of the Second Empire. Picasso moves her to the waves of the avant guarde, transforming a neo-classical icon into a modernist masterpiece.
Works of art and precious sacred objects reveal the mystery of woman in a journey across five-thousand years and the cultures of six continents.
From the styles of Gucci, Harris Reed and Grace Wales Bonner to the paintings of Sofonisba Anguissola up to the works of Robert Longo, the exhibition looks at masculinity from the Renaissance to today.