Picasso musketeer paintings fight for top price in London

Two late Picasso paintings are shaping up to be the top lots at Christie’s and Sotheby’s London's Impressionist and Modern Art sales next week. Painted in 1969, when the artist was 89, the two canvases were first shown in an exhibition of musketeer paintings at the Palais des Papes in Avignon in 1970, where most critics panned them. The popularity of late Picassos grew in the 1980s and they have recently been commanding high prices at auction. In May, Julian Schnabel sold one for $7.7 million, while Madoff victim Jerome Fisher fetched $14.6 million for his Mousquetaire à la pipe. Ironically, the two paintings for sale now are both titled Homme à l'épée, were painted a day apart, and are nearly the same size. The Sotheby’s musketeer, estimated at $9.8-13.1 million, has the advantage of being on the cover of the Avignon exhibition catalogue and having never been at the auction block.