Picasso and the Dove

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Picasso’s father was a pigeon fancier, and Pablo spent his childhood in Málaga surrounded by the birds. His father was also an artist and taught him how to draw them.

One of the early works in his blue period shows a child holding a dove


Pablo Picasso, L’enfant au pigeon, 1901, oil on canvas, 73 x 54 cm, Private Collection

He included them in this painting from his cubist period


Pablo Picasso, Femme aux pigeons, 1930, pastel on paper applied to canvas, 200 x 185 cm, Centre Pompidou, Paris

The model for this work was Marie-Thérèse Walter, whom he had met in 1927, and who was his partner for more than ten years.


Pablo Picasso 1881–1973, La Colombe, 1949, lithograph on paper, 57 x 76 cm, Tate Gallery, London

Picasso made the lithograph on 9 January 1949 in the atelier of the printmaker Fernand Mourlot in Paris. It is  a traditional, realistic picture of a pigeon which had been given to him by his great friend Matisse.

The image was used to illustrate the poster of the 1949 Paris Peace Congress and became not only the symbol of the Peace Congresses but also of the ideals of world Communism. The Congrès mondial des Partisans de la paix opened in Paris on 20 April.


The day before, Picasso’s partner, Françoise Gilot, had given birth to his fourth child, who was named Paloma, the Spanish word for dove.


Picasso later developed this image into a simple, graphic line drawing that is one of the world’s most recognisable symbols of peace.


Pablo Picasso, L’Atelier (Pigeons), 1957

Matisse and Picasso had known each other since 1904 when they were introduced at the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein. They were not only friends but each had a profound influence on one another and their art.

After Matisse died in 1954, Picasso was devastated. He moved his family to a large villa near Cannes,  and painted a series of eleven paintings which he called Studio in the style of his friend, and in homage to him. Many of them feature doves, which were beloved of Matisse.


Henri Cartier-Bresson, Matisse and his pigeons, 1944



The Dove, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit

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The Baptism of Christ


Andrea del Verrocchio, Battesimo di Cristo, c1475, oil on panel, 177 x 151 cm, Galleria degli Uffizzi, Florence, Italy

The work was painted in the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio and generally ascribed to him and his pupil Leonardo da Vinci, and perhaps others as well.
The angel to the left is supposed to have been painted by the youthful Leonardo. In fact , although the work is still attributed to Verrocchio, it is becoming increasingly thought that much of the landscape in the background and the figure of Christ are also the work of Leonardo.


Piero della Francesca, Battesimo di Cristo, 1448-1450, tempora on poplar panel, I18 x 116 cm, National Gallery, London, UK.

The Annunciation


Joos van Cleve, Annunciation, 1525, oil on wood, 86 x 80 cm,  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA


Carlo Crevelli, L’Annunciazione di Ascoli, o Annunciazione con sant’Emidios, 1486, oil on canvas, 207 x 147 cm, National Gallery, London, UK

This painting was also discussed at an earlier meeting of the group

Details from the Crevelli version

The Holy Spirit descends towards Mary


Other doves hover near a dovecote on the house opposite, and perch on a balcony

There are two other birds

A peacock, Christian symbol of immortality and the Resurrection, sits on a balcony directly above Mary’s chamber


and a caged goldfinch.  Because of the thistle seeds it eats, in Christian symbolism the goldfinch is associated with Christ’s Passion and his crown of thorns