Picasso’s Reclining Nude with Man and Bird (1971)

In this composition by Picasso the old man, clearly the artist himself, looks out from behind the reclining nude in precisely the same spot as Edouard Manet's alter ego in Olympia. Manet (appearing as the maid) is also positioned behind Olympia's reclining nude body. It is an important reference that Picasso would have expected other artists to recognize here. (See Olympia.)

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Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, Reclining Nude with Man and Bird (19th April 1971)

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Just in case there was any doubt Picasso added his initials in the old man's eyes: two P's. (I rotated the detail a quarter-turn to the left in the diagram below.) Picasso even skipped drawing the lower contour of the eye on the left to make its P even more evident. PP, of course, equals Pablo Picasso.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Picasso's Reclining Nude...above a diagram of the same detail rotated a quarter-turn to the left.

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At left is a detail of the nude's vagina in which Picasso drew some of the pubic hairs as Ms for Manet, up and down the two sides of the opening. For artists like Picasso and Manet human conception and birth were always allegorical symbols for their own mental conceptions. Here Picasso, having worked in Paris for nearly 70 years, imagines himself as Manet, the Parisian master of the nineteenth century. He also drew the hairs at the base of the vagina into two eyes and a nose, one with a pupil to indicate his external vision, one without to indicate insight. See diagram.  

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Picasso's Reclining Nude...above a diagram of the same detail.

Click image to enlarge.

Even the hairs on Picasso's head are shaped into Manet's initial, M.  This further confirms Picasso's understanding of Olympia's maid as the painter's alter ego positioned behind his own androgynous self-representation as a painting, the reclining female nude. 

See the theme Letters in Art for at least nine other images in which Picasso disguised his own initials and those of other artists he identified with.

Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, Reclining Nude with Man and Bird (19th April 1971)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 26 Dec 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.