Impression: Very fine
Picasso created five prints which Bloch names Femme Torero over a ten-day period. Including the closely related La Grande Corrida, all of them depict a bull and Picasso's mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter as a female bullfighter with the who has fallen off her gored horse. This series of prints presages Guernica both stylistically and thematically. Most of them, including this print, are highly successful works, beautiful to behold and laden with symbolism. In my estimation, they lyrically and artistically lead the pack of Picasso's many takes on the corrida, although I also favor a couple of the linocuts on this subject.
The bullfighter in all six prints is apparently enraptured despite her tumble. In this first print of the series, the woman and bull seem about to kiss on the lips. As if to leave no doubt, Picasso here has endowed the bull with human-shaped lips. This liaison could also be interpreted as the kiss of death, given the ambiguity of the series as to whether the torera is still alive. As Marilyn McCully has pointed out in Picasso Érotique, this interpretation could be supported by, and symbolic of, the fact that Picasso's passion for Marie-Thérèse was drawing to an end.
It is widely agreed that Picasso identified with the bull, which more generally symbolized maleness and virility. Much has been written about the bullfight as a stylized sexual encounter. It is perhaps less well know that there was a famous female bullfighter with whom Picasso was acquainted. I am uncertain if he knew her and if she were active at this time, or only later as recounted by Francoise Gilot.
Femme Torero I touchingly portrays the bull and torera, who, with locked gazes, are oblivious to the anguish of the wounded horse beside them.