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The Pan Pipes, 1923 by Pablo Picasso

Picasso returns to monumentalism with this gigantic work, measuring 205 cm x 174.5 cm (7 x 5.5 ft). The size of the canvas enforces the-immense statuesque proportions of the figures. Like the earlier Three Women at the Spring (1921) these male figures appear to have been carved like Classical Homeric statues from the hunks of stone behind them and then imbued with life, possibly by the music from the magical pan pipes. The thin black lines around their frame and shadowing helps lift them off the picture surface to complete the sense of chiselled separation.

Pan, an ancient Greek god and patron of pastoral poets, was also a symbol of fertility and love. He played his reed pipes, formed from a nymph who metamorphosed to escape his amorous clutches. Pan was said to be dangerous in the midday heat, as represented so intensely in this picture; the deep heat emanates from the fierce blue colours in three horizontal bands.

This work sees a development of Picasso's life-long artistic fascination with male sexuality wrapped in images from mythology. The face on the left recalls earlier self-projections, such as Self-Portrait (1907), and suggests the 42-year-old artist's contentment with his own creativity and virility.

Picasso's Masterpieces

  • The Old Guitarist
    The Old Guitarist
  • Guernica
  • Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
    Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
  • The Blue Nude
    The Blue Nude
  • Three Musicians
    Three Musicians
  • Girl Before a Mirror
    Girl Before a Mirror
  • the-dream
    The Dream
  • The Weeping Woman
    The Weeping Woman
  • Ma Jolie
    Ma Jolie
  • The Accordionist
    The Accordionist
  • Maya with her Doll
    Maya with her Doll
  • The Rape of Sabine Women
    The Rape of Sabine Women
  • Luncheon on the Grass
    Luncheon on the Grass
  • Dora Maar Au Chat
    Dora Maar Au Chat
  • Nude Green Leaves and Bust
    Nude Green Leaves and Bust
  • don-quixote
    Don Quixote