Untitled, 1971 Bloch 1637This original aquatint etching, Untitled, 1971 (Bloch catalog number 1637) is from the Portfolio of La Célestine which is part of the 347 Series.  

Between March 16 and October 5, 1968, Picasso created 347 etchings and aquatints (some days completing 2 or 3 etching plates), an astonishing outpouring of energy when Picasso was 86 years old.  The series began
shortly after the death of his companion and friend, Catalan poet Jaime Sabartés (1881-1968).  Picasso dedicated a set of proofs in his memory.

The 66 etching plates for this Portfolio of La Célestine were completed between April 11 and August 18, 1968.

With irony and ribald humor Picasso reviewed his life in the 347 Series, his failing powers and his place in history.  In fact, Picasso is often observed in much of the 347 Series as voyeur in these images of fantasy and imagination.

The series was printed in collaboration with brothers Piero (1934-2001) and Aldo Crommelynck who, in 1963, set up a studio in Mougins when Picasso was 82 years old.  Picasso's prolific production relied on the absolute trust he had between himself and the master engravers.  

This portfolio was published by Editions de l'Atelier Crommelynck in Paris in 1971.  It was created in a
book edition of 350 plus 30 HC (hors commerce) examples of which this one is numbered XXIII/XXX.  Picasso signed the justification page of the portfolio of 66 prints rather than each one individually.  In addition, as part of the 347 Series 50 impressions were printed on a larger paper (of each of the 66 images).

This etching is untitled because Picasso usually had no use for titles.

To illustrate La Célestine, Picasso mainly used the lift-ground process on greased copper plates.

La Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea
, known by the title La Celestina, is a dramatized novel in 21 acts, attributed to Fernando de Rojas, who published it in Burgos in 1499.  Because of its lively prose dialogue, its well-developed characters, and its striking description of the mores of Spain at the time of the Catholic kings-- that is during the transition period between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance--La Celestina is  one of the major works in Spanish literature.

The story is simple: Calisto is passionately in love with Milibea, who spurns him.  His valet, Sempronio, advises him to offer a generous bribe to Celestina, who will then be willing to act as matchmaker.  Celestina is the most remarkable character in the story; her corruption knows no bounds, and her cupidity leads her to invent a thousand ruses.  Indeed, she does succeed in approaching Melibea, a chaste and closely chaperoned girl, and in awaking her love for Calisto. 

Soon the intermediary finds a way to bring the lovers together, but in her success lies the portent of doom.  When Sempronio and a friend tell Celestina that she should share the bribe money, and she refuses to cede any part, they kill her; a crime for which they will be hanged.  Calisto, pursued by those who know of his secret love, falls from a ladder and dies, and, finally, Melibea throws herself from the tower of her father's house.  Her poor father is left alone bewailing the death of his daughter:
"Why have you left me, sad and alone in this vale of tears?"

What interested Picasso in the story was the lovers' meetings arranged by Celestina and held in her presence.  Picasso had painted a realistic, even cruel portrait of the well-known personage in 1903 and elements of the story appear in this portfolio. 
Picasso pictured Celestine as a small old woman in black, peeping into a couple's private moments. Picasso believed that his creation contained ironic and vulgar elements like Shakespearian plays, which look deep into human nature.