Picasso portrait of daughter to headline Sotheby's sale

Pablo Picasso's 1938 portrait of his daughter Maya as a toddler is expected to bring up to $33.8 million Cdn at Sotheby's New York auction next month.

Pablo Picasso's 1938 portrait of his daughter Maya as a toddler is expected to bring up to $33.8 million Cdn at Sotheby's New York auction next month.

La Fille de l'artiste a deux ans et demi avec un bâteau (The Daughter of the Artist at Two-and-a-half Years with a Boat) will be auctioned at Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale on May 5-6.

It depicts Maya Widmaier-Picasso, the second of Picasso's four children by three women, as a golden-haired toddler holding a toy boat. She was born to the Spanish artist's mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, in 1935, while he was still married to the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova.

As a child, Widmaier-Picasso was the subject of a series of colourful portraits with her favourite toys. This work was created just a few months after the harrowing Guernica, Picasso's protest against the bombing of a small village during the Spanish Civil War.

"It reflects the great joy that Maya brought into the artist's life, even on the eve of the Second World War," Sotheby's vice-chairman of impressionist and modern art Emmanuel Di Donna told the Telegraph.

Like many of Picasso's portraits of his family members, the work remained in his personal collection for 35 years until his death in 1973. It has been in a private collection since the 1980s.

The painting has never been auctioned before.

Maya married Pierre Widmaier and had three children, Olivier, Richard and Diana, an art historian and author whom major art houses seek out to authenticate her father's works.

The auction will also include the late Swiss-born artist Alberto Giacometti's sculpture Le Chat, and a group of paintings by the late Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka from the collection of German fashion designer Wolfgang Joop.