St Albans Oxfam book could hold Picasso secret

The etching Eva believes Guernica is based on

The etching Eva believes Guernica is based on - Credit: Archant

The shelves of Oxfam bookshops have always held a fascintation for bibliophiles – and now a volunteer in the local store has discovered a book with a strong link to Picasso’s seminal work Guernica.

Picasso's Guernica

Picasso's Guernica - Credit: Archant

Eva Lawrence, of The Ridgeway, St Albans, was browsing in the languages section of the Oxfam Bookshop in Catherine Street, last year when she found a fat, red-and-gold German volume called Die Hohenzollern.

It had been printed in Berlin in 1908, possibly to celebrate the engagement of Crown Prince Friederich Wilhelm, heir to Wilhelm II, Hohenzollern King of Prussia and German Kaiser.

Among the many black-and white plates was a photograph of this country’s King Edward VII riding in state in an open carriage with the Hohenzollern Kaiser in 1907. Both men are wearing plumed headgear, an array of medals and orders and are kept warm by travelling rugs. A helmeted guard rides next to the carriage.

Eva found herself drawn to an etching in the book called The Great Elector at the Massacre at Fehrbellin (1675), a specially-commissioned copy of a picture of the same name painted by Adolf Eybel in the 19th Century to glorify the valour of another Hohenzollern duke, Friedrich Wilhelm.

She said: “It reminded me very strongly of Pablo Picasso’s famous anti-war artwork Guernica, most particularly in the horrific depiction of a stricken horse baying in agony.

“When I compared reproductions of the two works, it was clear that Picasso’s 1917 painting was a reworking of the earlier picture which he would have seen in a German art gallery or even in a copy of this book. It’s well-known that Picasso often did, quite openly, make adaptations of other artists’ work.

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“His varied takes on Velasquez’s Las Meninas have been on display at the National Gallery but apparently no-one has previously been aware of this inspiration for Guernica, one of his seminal paintings.

Eva has since shown the the juxtaposition of the two pictures to eminent art historian T J Clark, the author of Picasso and Truth: from Cubism to Guernica. He agreed with her conclusion and suggested she should publicise her discovery.

But Eva has decided to use her find for another purpose and said: “I hope it can be used to publicise the treasures to be found on Oxfam’s bookshelves.”