Sylvette – Rotterdam, Netherlands - Atlas Obscura
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Rotterdam, Netherlands

Sylvette

A nearly 25-foot concrete sculpture of Sylvette, Picasso's muse.  

When thinking of Picasso’s work people look towards museums and exhibitions, yet a large-scale Picasso masterpiece can be found standing tall on the streets of Rotterdam: his muse, Sylvette.

Picasso met the 20-year old Sylvette in 1954 at age 73. The young woman inspired him and quickly became his artistic muse, eventually becoming the inspiration and centerpiece for over 40 drawings, paintings and sculptures. 

In 1957, he met the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar and the two became fast friends and partners in making art. Nesjar had developed a technique to “paint” on concrete by mixing little black rocks into the mortar and then covering it with plain concrete. Sandblasting the sculpture would then reveal the black stones embedded underneath. 

It was this exact technique that was used to make the statue of Sylvette. Picasso and Nesjar chose one of Picasso’s small cardboard statues and enlarged it using Nesjar’s technique. The work was bought by the city in 1963, but local residents protested the concrete monstrosity for eight long years. In the end, Sylvette was erected in 1971. 

These days the piece is well liked in the city by both locals and tourists alike. Proving that even with concrete, pretty things can be made. 

Know Before You Go

The original, small-scale sculpture of Sylvette can be found in New York City's Museum of Modern Art. There's also a large-scale bust of Sylvette by Nesjar in New York City, in a complex owned by New York University. 

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