NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby's has withdrawn a Picasso Cubist painting titled "Arlequin" (1909) which was to be auctioned as part of an Impressionist and Modern art sale on Monday. "The owner decided to withdraw the painting for private reasons," a Sotheby's spokeswoman told Reuters.
A number of high-profile works have failed to perform well at auction recently, sparking fears the current financial crisis is hitting art prices.
Sotheby's had promoted the painting as one of the most important works by Pablo Picasso to appear on the market over the last several years. Arlequin dates to 1909, a pivotal moment in the history of modern art; just two years after Picasso completed his watershed composition, Les Demoiselles dAvignon. Modeled with luminous shades of jade, rose and amber, this spectacular portrait depicts a harlequin, one of the most poignant motifs in the artists oeuvre. For the last 50 years, this jewel of Picassos Cubist production has been a treasured possession of the Surrealist artist Enrico Donati, who died earlier this year at the age of 99. He purchased it in the 1940s directly from Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, the legendary dealer of Picasso and the Cubists. The painting, which is expected to bring over $30 million, has been consigned by Mr. Donatis estate.
The Italian-born Donati was part of the circle of prominent European artists, many of them Surrealists, who gathered in New York at the beginning of the war -- Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, Arshile Gorky, Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio de Chirico, and others. Duchamp in particular became a good friend and the two collaborated on numerous projects. Donati acquired Arlequin in Paris in the 1940s. During a visit to the Musee dart moderne, the young painter became entranced by an early Cubist work by Picasso. According to Donatis hand-written notes, he read the name of the lender on a label below the painting: Galerie Louise Leiris; and then he promptly left the museum to rush to the famed gallery to try and acquire a Cubist work before returning to New York. When he arrived, the gates in front of the gallery were locked, but an older man came out to greet him. That man, Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, who knew of Donati through their mutual friend, Marcel Duchamp, welcomed him in and showed him a Cubist painting by Picasso he had in inventory. Kahnweiler quoted the equivalent of $12,000 for a superb 1909 painting of a Harlequin resting his chin on one hand, and Donati concluded the deal on the spot.