La Fornarina was a young woman whom Raphael Sanzio painted. More than two centuries later French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres borrowed from the Renaissance painter to produce Raphael and the Fornarina, after which she became a romantic legend. Mentioned by name in many works of poetry and fiction, including Honoré de Balzac's Scenes from a Courtesan's Life, La Fornarina was also appropriated by Picasso.
Emulating Ingres's drawing style, Picasso depicts young Raphael stepping right out of Ingres's painting. But he doesn't hold Fornarina on his lap, as in the Ingres depiction. In this etching Raphael is ready to mate with her. One can imagine the old Spaniard having fun with the ensuing foreplay between the two, and at the expense of an enigmatic goggle-eyed observer: Pope Julius II.
March 29, 1968: Pintor con traje de español pintando sobre su modelo
In "Suite 347" you can also find some of Picasso's friends, including Jacqueline, his last female companion. He portrays himself in different guises: as Greek farmer, as aging voyeur, as a bust, or as just one more amid a group of bystanders (as Hitchcock used to do in his movies).
There are so many things to admire in Picasso's prints, not least of which is his deliberate and steady pulse, especially for an 87-year-old. But there is also the wealth of images, the pervasive wit that invokes so many references to art history, as in his shifting from Neoclassical to Baroque to Tachism in one etching. And as regards his knowledge of the nude female form, he's second to none.
"Suite 347" summons Picasso's reservoir of memories and metaphors, almost as if it were his last chance. It is a definitive representation, a final curtain for the artist seeing himself being seen by others.