Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece MoMA.org: The Museum of Modern Art Les Demoiselles: Conserving a Modern Masterpiece
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Analysis & Previous Treatments
Previous Treatments

The earliest record of a possible treatment comes from 1907, when Leo Stein, a friend and early collector of Picasso's work, recalled that he "had some pictures relined and [Picasso] decided that he would have one of his pictures too treated like a classic, though in reverse order—he would have the canvas lined first and paint on it afterwards. This he did on a large scale, and painted a composition of nudes of the pink period, and then he repainted it again and again and finally left it as the horrible mess which was called, for reasons I never heard, the Demoiselles d'Avignon (Stein, Appreciation, p. 175)." Picasso meant "classic" in the sense of Old Master paintings, which were lined, as a routine Vertical Crackstreatment, with another canvas adhered (usually with glue) to the reverse of the original canvas, and the edges of the now-reinforced canvas covered with paper tape. Stein may have been referring to another painting since, although Les Demoiselles d'Avignon has definitely been lined (probably in 1924), the evidence indicates that the lining occurred after the paint was applied and dry.

There is evidence that the painting was rolled prior to any lining, with the painted side facing in. Evenly spaced, parallel vertical cracks visible in the painting, especially near the top edge, attest to this method of transporting the large canvas before it had the additional support of the lining canvas [see: Vertical Cracks]. The cracks likely resulted from the rolled painting having been compressed, crushing the paint along the crease of the fold. As Picasso moved his studio six times between 1907 and 1924, such rolling would almost certainly have occurred before the painting was sold to Doucet.

Pictured at top:
Photomicrograph of cracked and lost paint encompassing an area of less than one square inch of top right figure's left eye.

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