The Jester

Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, Spanish, 1881 - 1973

Made in France, Europe



16 x 14 x 9 inches (40.6 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm) Weight: 23 lb. (10.43 kg)

© Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins, 1950

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Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    Although Picasso is known primarily for his paintings, his sculptures are among the most influential of the twentieth century, and this youthful work reveals his impressive skill in the medium. Apparently he began working on this bust late one night after returning home from the circus with a friend, the French poet Max Jacob. The head initially took on the appearance of Jacob, but in the finished work only a few features of the poet's thin face are recognizable. In a manner akin to his later use of collage, Picasso added the jester's cap last. It seems that he was particularly attracted to this sartorial motif because of its geometric structure---a large triangle surrounded by smaller ones---which lends the figure additional animation and plasticity. The poised jester, with his slight smirk, relates to paintings and drawings Picasso began making in 1905, when he explored the marginal world of circus performers. The artist modeled this piece in wax prior to casting, a technique he knew from the sculpture of his predecessor, French artist Edgar Degas. The contrast between the smooth, careful rendering of the features and the rough treatment of the shoulders demonstrates Picasso's expert handling of the medium at a surprising early age. Emily Hage, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 112.