Sylvette David


Sylvette by Pablo Picasso, 1954. Fondation Hubert Looser, Zürich © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2016


19 year old Sylvette David posed for Picasso for several weeks in 1954. A crucial outcome of this episode was a series of sculptures made with cut, bent and painted sheet-iron. Picasso did not work the metal himself, but relied on her fiancé, Tobias Jellinek, to reproduce his cardboard maquettes using machinery in a local workshop. In painting the present sculpture, Picasso used a quasi-Cubist style for one side and a wilfully naïve style for the other. David’s image thus undergoes transformation and she appears, at one moment more sophisticated, then more child-like. This may reflect Picasso’s sense of the liminal state of David herself.