Family of Saltimbanques
|Type||oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||212.8 cm × 229.6 cm (83 3⁄4 in × 90 3⁄8 in)|
|Location||Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.|
Family of Saltimbanques (La famille de saltimbanques) is a 1905 painting by Pablo Picasso. It is considered the masterpiece of Picasso's Rose Period, sometimes called his circus period. Its dimensions are 212.8 x 229.6 cm (83 3/4 in × 90 3/8 in).
The painting depicts six saltimbanques, a kind of itinerant circus performer, in a desolate landscape. The composition groups them together but they seem disconnected and do not look at one another.
It was painted during a period from late 1904 to early 1906 when Picasso explored themes using the saltimbanque. Picasso frequently attended the Cirque Médrano in Montmartre. Critics have suggested Family of Saltimbanques is a covert group portrait of Picasso and his circle, symbolized as poor, independent and isolated. The painting was removed from the Spanish salon at the IX Biennale of Venice in 1910, because considered inappropriate by the organization. 
Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was inspired by this painting as he wrote the fifth of ten elegies in his Duino Elegies (1923). Rilke used the figures in Picasso's painting as a symbol of "human activity...always travelling and with no fixed abode, they are even a shade more fleeting than the rest of us, whose fleetingness was lamented." Further, although Picasso's painting depicts the figures in a desolate desert landscape, Rilke described them as standing on a "threadbare carpet" to suggest "the ultimate loneliness and isolation of Man in this incomprehensible world, practicing their profession from childhood to death as playthings of an unknown will...before their 'pure too-little; had passed into 'empty too-much'."
- Picasso: The Early Years, 1892-1906. National Gallery of Art
- Staff report (October 13, 1947). Picasso: The brilliant Spaniard is this era's most important painter. But is he a truly great artist? Life
- Carmean E. A. (1970). Picasso, The saltimbanques. National Gallery of Art
- Leishman, J. B.; and Spender, Stephen. Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1939) 102-103.
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