This stunning etching is a portentous milestone in Pablo Picasso’s career as the themes of bullfighting and the mythological Minotaur are symbolically examined in metaphysical and political terms. Minotauromachy is always critically recognized as a major forerunner to Guernica (1937).
Like other works of this period, the Minotaur is transformed to bestial man with a predatory, Bacchanalian devouring of nubile girls. Whether symbolic of Picasso’s own sexual potency, masculine ascendancy, or of evil overpowering innocence, this aggressive motif assumes varying roles and creates a web of sub-texts; making it unsurprising that many psychoanalysts have agitated over its implications.
Here, purity and innocence calmly win over aggression and adversity. The small, neatly dressed girl, in the bullring, holds up a symbolic protective candle, the image of the spiritual light of life from religious paintings, its light reaching out expressively in a halo. Around her are death, chaos and destruction. The Minotaur, with its muscular male torso and horrific, super-enlarged animal head, is an echo of Bullfight: The Death of the Toreador (1933). Here the disemboweled horse is bearing a dying female matador. As a frightened man escapes up the ladder, the girl remains serenely fearless and smiling. The reductionist use of black and white, light and shadow, wonderfully enhances aesthetic and philosophical concepts of simplicity, purity and truth.
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*Plus, on 2003 David Bowie included a version of Pablo Picasso (written by John Richman for the proto punk group The Modern Lovers) on his album Reality.