In October 1977, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s famous ‘sleeping blond muse’ was found hanged in her home’s garage; she was sixty-eight years old. Unlike other mistresses, her relationship with the art maverick was always extremely secretive, and following her death those who knew her story best now feared that it might start leaking out.
In 1988, Dr. Herbert T. Schwarz, a retired Canadian physician published a study where he tried to show how Picasso had lied when claiming to have met Marie-Thérèse in January 1927 when she was seventeen and a half, meaning only six months short of her legal age for sexual consent; according to Schwarz, Picasso’s work contained plenty of evidence testifying to her secret presence already in early 1925 when she was now only fifteen; had Picasso been involved in the corruption of a minor?
But two secretly coded drawings, one discovered in London during the 70s and the other one in Montreal in 1988 have a very different story to tell, one that bars out all possibility of any meeting during the 1920s. Instead, the drawings, once deciphered, show how Picasso knew Marie-Thérèse from her earliest childhood; the drawings are also telling us that her parents were not the ones that we had been told about.
So why the hoax, and why the lingering cover-up; it could be that this will turn out to be one of art’s greatest mystifications ever.