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The invited work: Acrobat on a Ball, Picasso

9/16/2011 - 1/8/2012

As part of its “Invited Work” programme, the Prado is now offering visitors the exceptional chance to see Acrobat with a Ball, one of the most important works from Picasso’s Rose Period. It will be on display at the Prado for three months and represents the first occasion in forty years on which the painting has left the Pushkin Museum as well as its first presentation in Spain.

Javier Barón, Chief of 19th Century Painting Department


Room 60

Sponsored by:
Fundación de Amigos del Museo del Prado
Año dual España-Rusia 2011



Acrobat on a Ball, Picasso

Acrobat on a Ball, Picasso
L´Acrobate à la Boule
Oil on canvas. 147 x 95 cm. 1905
©The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. © Pablo Picasso Estate. VEGAP. Madrid, 2011

From 1904 onwards Picasso regularly went to the Cirque Medrano, which was located near his studio in the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre. The Impressionist painters had already been interested in the circus, attracted by its light and movement. Picasso’s interest, however, was of a more universal and profound nature. Through the symbolic figures of the world of the circus he offered a reflection on the life of the artist while also using this theme as part of his process of investigation on fundamental issues of painting. The two principal figures in the present work reveal the two poles of Picasso’s art: creativity and fantasy on the one hand and seriousness and rigour on the other. The figure of the female acrobat on a ball, which is also to be seen in another important painting of this date, The Family of Saltimbanques (Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection), reveals Picasso’s characteristically playful temperament. His close friend, the writer Guillaume Apollinaire, interpreted this motif as a dance of the stars in reference to the radiant harmony of the cosmos.

Following the intense and melancholy expressivity of the Blue Period, during his next phase, which began in Paris in 1905, Picasso focused on some of the key visual aspects of painting: precise and energetic line; closed, perfect form; and a pronounced sense of volume. His investigations led him to take a direction very different to that of the contemporary young French painters who were fascinated by the violent chromatism of Fauvism.

At that period Picasso was short of materials and thus reused one of his large canvases on which he had previously painted a portrait of the painter Francisco Iturrino (1864-1924), as photographs and x-rays reveal. The portrait had been exhibited at the Ambroise Vollard gallery in Paris in 1901 within Picasso’s first exhibition, which he held jointly with Iturrino.

The painting was acquired by Picasso’s American patron Gertrude Stein then passed to Kahnweiler’s gallery from where it was sold in 1913 to the Russian collector I. A. Morosov. After the Russian Revolution it entered the State collections and has only rarely been loaned by the Pushkin Museum in Moscow where it is now housed.


The Pushkin Museum

The Pushkin Museum
Pushkin Museum

Located in the centre of the city, the Pushkin Museum has one of the most important collections of European art in Russia, only surpassed by that of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. Its collections include more than 500,000 objects and works of art from antiquity to the early years of the 20th century.

Founded for educational purposes by the university professor and philologist Ivan Vladimirovich, the Pushkin was opened in 1912 as the Museum of Fine Arts and named after Czar Alexander III.

After the Russian Revolution it became the State Museum of Fine Arts and saw a major growth in its holdings between 1924 and 1930 due to the nationalisation of works of art in private collections and the arrival of old collections from Saint Petersburg, particularly the Hermitage.

The Museum, which received its present name in 1937, houses Egyptian mummies, Greek ceramics and sculptures, and European paintings, including works by leading artists such as Bronzino, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Poussin and Canaletto. Its collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings has made the Pushkin world famous and includes works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso and Kandinsky.

Irina Antonova (born Moscow, 1922) has been Director of the Pushkin Museum since 1961, making her the longest serving director of that institution as well as that of any major art museum world-wide. Her distinguished career has been recognised with numerous honours including the State Prize of the Russian Federation and the French Order of Arts and Letters.

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