Pablo Picasso. Three Musicians. Fontainebleau, summer 1921

Oil on canvas, 6' 7" x 7' 3 3/4" (200.7 x 222.9 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. © 2024 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curator, Anne Umland: We are looking at Pablo Picasso's Three Musicians, a monumental work executed during the summer of 1921 in Fontainebleau, which is a chateau town just outside of Paris where Picasso had rented a villa for the summer and was using a garage as his studio.

On the left, a masked Pierrot who's playing a clarinet. The Pierrot figure has been related to the poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, who was a great friend of Picasso's in the years prior to World War II, and who by the time this work was painted was dead. At the right, you see a singing monk who holds a sheet of musical notes in his very small sort of claw-like hands or paws. The monk has been connected to another old friend of Picasso, the poet Max Jacob, who earlier this year in 1921, had in fact, entered a Benedictine monastery. And then at center, strumming a guitar is the brightly colored figure of a harlequin who's often in Picasso's work—a stand-in or an alter ego for the artist himself.

I think one of the most humorous details in this large work is the dog. If you look very carefully at the lower left corner of the painting, you'll see his two forelegs and his head peeking out. And then follow along under the table and you'll find his curving tail pointing up rather suggestively between the harlequin's legs.