Saturday, 13 June 2009

Pablo Picasso's First Mybor Rugs. The Beginning of a Life Long Friendship and Valuable Collaboration with Marie Cuttoli

Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, did not specifically design rugs for decorative use. Nevertheless, carpets were regularly produced using his artwork throughout the second half of the twentieth century. This type of limited edition is quite common today, but they in fact began much earlier for Picasso.

In the 1920s Marie Cuttoli created a textile art gallery in Paris called Myrbor. In the beginning she purchased small works from Picasso and other artists, in order to reproduce them as hand-woven carpets in a workshop in Algeria. As well as this, she was very much involved, with her companion Henri Laugier, in collecting and promoting Cubist artists. Through these regular contacts a strong friendship developed between Cuttoli and Picasso, which lasted their entire lives.

The biggest tribute that this unique couple made to the history of art is their Picasso donation of about twenty Cubist works by Picasso to the Musee National d'Art Moderne (French National Modern Art Museum), also known as the Centre George Pompidou, in Paris.

Picasso/Myrbor rug, plate 23, Tapis Modernes by Maurice Matet, Henri Ernst ed., 1929. The Carpet Index Library

For our purposes, the result of this friendship was that Picasso provided about fifteen carpet designs to Cuttoli of which the last were always sold through the Weil-Seligman Gallery in the 1980s.

The first two paintings transformed into rugs are Verre et Pipe (Glass and Pipe) 22cm x 27cm (1917), and Pipe (see image) 38cm x 46cm (1918). They are both reproduced in Cahiers d'Art (1949) by Christian Zervos, Vol 3 1917-1919, and belong to Picasso's so-called Montrouge period. There are a number of small differences between them.

My research could not trace the location of the original works today, nor when they left the Cuttoli collection.

The second composition is much better known, as it is one of the large carpets that were purchased in 1928 by Helena Rubinstein for her New York apartment. It has been mentioned regularly in articles and books (see Susan Day, Art Deco and Modernist Carpets). Recently a similar rug could be seen at Surprisingly a rug representing the first design was presented without a Picasso attribution in the following auction catalogue: Christie's New York, December 8 2004, Lot 50.

My feeling is that only a small number of these rugs were ever woven, and with no standard dimensions. In the transposition from painting to carpet, slight differences are noticeable.

This post is a tribute to both Marie Cuttoli's work and her fantastic personality. It will most definitely not be the last tribute, as her influence on the history of carpet and tapestry design in both Europe and North America, was immense.

Post written by Jean Manuel de Noronha

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