Skip to main content

Unprecedented study of Picasso sculptures

Picasso bronze sculpture

Images and video available to download

Musée national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) have completed the first major material survey and study of the Musée national Picasso-Paris’ world-renowned Pablo Picasso bronzes using cutting-edge, portable instruments.

 The international research team of scientists, art conservators and curators used the portable instruments and a robust database of alloy “fingerprints” to non-invasively analyze a priceless group of 39 bronzes (cast between 1905 and 1959) and 11 painted sheet metal sculptures (from the 1960s) in the Musée national Picasso-Paris’ collection.

The researchers were able to trace five bronzes cast in Paris during World War II to the foundry of Émile Robecchi, a lesser-known collaborator of Picasso’s. They also discovered Robecchi’s alloy compositions varied significantly during 1941 and 1942, likely reflecting the challenging circumstances of the Nazi occupation of Paris. In their study of Picasso’s cast-iron sheet metal sculptures, the researchers are the first to report the use of silver for facial features in a work inspired by one of his wives.

Francesca Casadio, the Grainger Executive Director of Conservation and Science at the Art Institute and co-director of NU-ACCESS, will discuss the findings at a Feb. 17 press briefing at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Austin, Texas. The briefing, “Technology Peers Into Picasso’s Art,” will be held at 9 a.m. CST in Room 6, Level 3, of the Austin Convention Center.

Casadio also will discuss the findings at 2 p.m. CST Feb. 17 in Room 17B of the Austin Convention Center. Her presentation, “Analyzing Picasso: Recent Breakthroughs Thanks to Mobile Instrumentation,” is part of a scientific session co-organized by Casadio and Walton called “Analyzing Picasso: Scientific Innovation, Instrumentation and Education.” 

Related links

Quotes from the experts

Francesca Casadio"We now can begin to write a new chapter in the history of this prolific giant of modern art."

Francesca Casadio - fcasadio@artic.edu

Grainger Executive Director of Conservation and Science, The Art Institute of Chicago
Co-director, Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS)

 

Emeline Pouyet headshot“Material evidence from the sculptures themselves can be unlocked by scientific analysis for a deeper understanding of Picasso’s bronze sculpture-making process.”

Emeline Pouyet - emeline.pouyet@northwestern.edu

Northwestern University materials scientist and postdoctoral fellow, Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS)


Headshot of Marc Walton

 Marc Walton - marc.walton@northwestern.edu 

Co-director, Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS)
Research professor of materials science and engineering, Northwestern University

 

 

 

Links for more information

Downloadable images

Picasso sculpture
Download Image

Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme, Mougins, fin 1962, fer, tôle, sculpture, peint, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018 

In its study of “Head of a Woman,” a research team from the Musée national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) is the first to report the use of the precious metal silver to render the details of the hair, eyes and other facial features on the cast-iron sheet, polychrome sculpture. The artist’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque, inspired the piece.

Picasso sculpture
Download Image

Pablo Picasso, Footballeur, Cannes, printemps 1961, tôle, sculpture, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018

This sheet metal sculpture was part of a study of Pablo Picasso’s work in three dimensions in the collection of the Musée national Picasso-Paris by a research team from the museum and Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS).

Picasso sculpture in infrared scanner
Download Image

Infrared analysis of the paint of Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme, Mougins, fin 1962, fer, tôle, sculpture, peint, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018

Picasso sculpture in infrared scanner
Download Image

Infrared analysis of the paint of Pablo Picasso, Footballeur, Cannes, printemps 1961, tôle, sculpture, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018

Picasso sculpture
Download Image

Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme de profil (Marie­-Thérèse), Boisgeloup, 1931, bronze, sculpture, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018

In its study of this bronze, “Head of a Woman, in Profile,” cast without a foundry mark in Paris in the 1940s, a research team from the Musée national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) traced the work to the foundry of Émile Robecchi, a lesser-known collaborator of Picasso’s, and dated the bronze cast to 1941.

Picasso sculpture
Download Image

Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme, 1932, bronze, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais, (C) Succession Picasso 2018

This bronze sculpture was part of the unprecedented study of five decades (1905-1959) of Pablo Picasso’s work in three dimensions in the collection of the Musée national Picasso-Paris by a research team from the museum and Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS).

Researcher performs infrared analysis of Picasso sculpture
Download Image

Marc Walton, co-director of NU-ACCESS, uses portable equipment for elemental analysis of the alloy of Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme (Fernande), Paris, automne 1909, bronze, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018

Researcher performs infrared analysis of Picasso sculpture
Download Image

Francesca Casadio, co-director of NU-ACCESS, uses portable equipment for elemental analysis of the alloy of Pablo Picasso, Boluquet de fleurs, Vallauris, 1951, bronze, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018 

Researcher performs infrared analysis
Download Image

Francesca Casadio, co-director of NU-ACCESS, uses portable equipment for elemental analysis of the alloy of Pablo Picasso, Femme, 1948, bronze, Musée national Picasso – Paris, (C) RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris), (C) Succession Picasso 2018 

Downloadable video soundbites

Video credit: Northwestern university

Woman speaking next to bronze sculpture
Download Image

Francesca Casadio, the Grainger Executive Director of Conservation and Science at The Art Institute of Chicago and co-director of the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS), discusses the Art Institute’s bronze sculpture “Head of a Woman (Fernande)” (Pablo Picasso, autumn 1909, © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York). 

This priceless work was analyzed with portable instruments, which use X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, by NU-ACCESS scientists in the museum galleries, without the need to move the sculpture. As multiple versions of this sculpture exist, materials analysis helps establish a fingerprint of the work’s alloy that can assist with the determination of provenance.

Woman smiling next to bronze sculpture
Download Image

Francesca Casadio, the Grainger Executive Director of Conservation and Science at The Art Institute of Chicago and co-director of the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS), discusses the Art Institute’s bronze sculpture “Head of a Woman (Fernande)” (Pablo Picasso, autumn 1909, © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York). 

This priceless work was studied by NU-ACCESS scientists to populate the world’s largest art database of alloy “fingerprints” for early 20th-century fine arts bronzes. More than a decade in the making, the NU-ACCESS database includes data on 350 works of art by the leading artists who came to Paris from all over the world to achieve the finest casts of their bronzes. 

Back to top