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Diana Widmaier, granddaughter of Pablo Picasso, said, "My grandfather liked the smell of paint and women"


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    Diana Widmaier nieta Picasso
    Diana Widmaier Picasso, painter Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter, next to one of the candles she created for Amen.Katharina Kaminski

    What would Picasso’s artworks smell like? Guernica would probably stink of smoke from Civil War bombings; Les Demoiselles d’Avignon would give off the scent of Provence’s lavender fields; Boy with a Pipe would reek of tobacco; and Portrait of Jaime Sabartés would be infused with the mild aroma of beer. Diana Widmaier Picasso, 49, the Spanish artist’s granddaughter, has been thinking about this and other unusual aspects of her grandfather’s legacy all her life. Whenever it seems that everything has been said and written about the legendary modern artist, she appears to discover something new (or not so new). “My grandfather liked the smell of women and paint,” says the expert in Picasso’s paintings and guardian of her family’s secrets.

    Widmaier has a PhD in art history from the Sorbonne and a law degree from Panthéon-Assas. She specializes in modern art and has contributed in her own way to the jam-packed schedule of celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death. Widmaier just published Picasso sorcier (Gallimard), a book in which she reveals the Cubist icon’s superstitions, religious beliefs, fears and fetishes; she curated the exhibition Maya Ruiz-Picasso, daughter of Pablo, the first show at the Picasso Museum in Paris to highlight the painter’s women as genuine subjects who contributed to his creative experience; and she partnered with Uruguayan entrepreneur and artist Rodrigo García to create a collection of candles that keep the creative fire of Picasso — that sacred monster — alive.

    Rodrigo García
    Rodrigo García, the founder of Amen Candles. Katharina Kaminski

    “My grandfather was a man full of passion. He was able to reinvent himself so many times thanks to the women he transformed into icons and muses,” Widmaier explains. One of those women was Maya Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter with Marie-Thérèse Walter, who died in December 2022 at the age of 87. Ruiz-Picasso devoted much of her life to promoting her father’s legacy, and before her death, she passed that baton to her daughter. “My mother lived long enough to see these candles. She loved them. Her favorite was the jasmine one,” she says.

    Jasmine, nature and sustainability were at the heart of the decision to create this candle collection. Diana Widmaier and Rodrigo Garcia met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in Paris. They were seated next to each other and instantly became friends. She had just settled in the French capital after living in New York, and he had just moved to France from Uruguay to start his sustainable candle brand, Amen Candles. In 2020, Garcia invited Widmaier to a presentation of his brand at the Dover Street Parfums Market in Paris. She was fascinated by Amen’s concept: natural, vegan, plastic-free wax candles; handcrafted in Grasse; presented in a Limoges porcelain container; and wrapped in biodegradable circular packaging made from mushrooms that absorb carbon dioxide. “We make them in France, and they arrive at your home, or at the Metropolitan [Museum] in New York, or at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona [...] without any trace of plastic,” says the brand’s founder.

    “Did you know that Picasso didn’t use plastic in any of his 50,000 works of art?” Widmaier asked Garcia at that presentation. A month later, the painter’s granddaughter called her friend to tell him that she wanted to give Amen candles to several artists, gallery owners and museum curators. The request was so large that Garcia replied half-jokingly (but half seriously), “Well, if you want so many, why don’t we make one exclusively for you?”

    One of the candles from the collection Diana Widmaier Picasso created for the Amen company. The Limoges porcelain vessel is engraved with the work 'Guitare à la main blanche,' which the artist painted in 1927.
    One of the candles from the collection Diana Widmaier Picasso created for the Amen company. The Limoges porcelain vessel is engraved with the work 'Guitare à la main blanche,' which the artist painted in 1927. Katharina Kaminski

    Widmaier liked that idea. “It was all very organic. One Sunday afternoon Rodrigo came to my house in Paris, and we started looking at the works in the Maya Ruiz-Picasso, daughter of Pablo exhibition catalog,” she recalls. “Diana and I didn’t want to turn to Picasso’s classic works for inspiration. We wanted to explore something new and original,” Garcia says. Figure, from 1927, was the starting point for this candle collection. Coincidentally (or not), 1927 was the year the Spanish painter met Marie-Thérèse, Diana’s grandmother, and began a secret relationship with her (at the time, he was still married to Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova).

    Widmaier’s grandparents’ love story permeates these home fragrances. “I included the painting Guitare à la main blanche, from 1927, because it bears my grandmother’s initials, MT. That reminded me of a love letter Pablo wrote to Marie-Thérèse in August 1936, in which he told her that her jasmine scent was always with him. My grandfather captured the essence of his love with that feminine, floral fragrance,” explains Widmaier. Each Amen candle is associated with a Picasso work and a fragrance: Guitare à la main blanche smells of jasmine; Acrobat, from 1932, has a ginger aroma; Reclining nude, from 1932, has the scent of amber; and Figure, from 1927, is redolent of orange and cinnamon. “For example, Figure must have smelled of orange because that scent reminds me of summers in the south of France and my mother’s childhood memories,” Widmaier explains.

    Coincidentally, many of the paintings they chose for this collection were created by Picasso in his Antibes atelier, on the French Riviera, just twenty minutes from where Amen’s candles are handcrafted. But neither Widmaier nor Garcia believe in coincidences. “We believe in the power of design and art to change paradigms and ways of thinking. Within the limitations of living in a capitalist world, we’re trying to use the forces of capitalism for good and to say something we think is important,” Amen’s founder concludes.

    The candles created by Diana Widmaier Picasso and Rodrigo Garcia are natural, vegan and free of plastic. They are handmade in Grasse, the world capital of fragrance, and are presented in a Limoges porcelain container engraved with a Picasso artwork.
    The candles created by Diana Widmaier Picasso and Rodrigo Garcia are natural, vegan and free of plastic. They are handmade in Grasse, the world capital of fragrance, and are presented in a Limoges porcelain container engraved with a Picasso artwork. Katharina Kaminski

    These candles smell like art, but they’re really about sustainability. Diana Widmaier became more interested in ecology after she became a mother in 2017. That same year she launched her own jewelry label, Menē, which is Aramaic for “currency” or “money.” The pieces are made from ethically mined gold and platinum from sustainable mines in Nevada, in the United States, and Ontario, in Canada. “I have a young daughter and I am happy to see that the new generations are more aware of the importance of preserving the environment,” she says. She named her daughter Luna in a clear allusion to the moon, which so many artists use to symbolize the feminine life force, fertility and resurrection. Luna is destined to be the next guardian of the Picasso legacy.

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