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Picasso's Celestina Etchings: Portrait of the Artist as Reader of Fernando de Rojas William J. Nowak received his MA. and Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from Princeton University. His area of specialization is early modern Spanish literature, with particular interests in Fernando de Rojas's Celestina , the picaresque novel and the interplay of visual and literary representation. Currently he teaches Spanish language, literature and culture at the University of Houston—Downtown. We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. —Pablo Picasso, "Picasso Speaks" The Arts Fig. 1 Between April and August of 1968, just a few years prior to his death, Picasso created a series of sixty-six etchings inspired by Fernando de Rojas's Celestina. ' Originally this series formed part of a larger collection of 347 engravings known as Suite 347 and it is not surprising that some of the earliest commentators on that sprawling work failed to recognize the literary allusion to a text little Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies Volume 9, 2005 54 Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies known outside the field of Hispanic letters.2 Amid the baroque festival of images that constitutes Suite 347, Celestina with her prostitutes and clients could easily go unnoticed or be mislabeled as a stereotypical duenna taken from Picasso's autobiographical reminiscences on his Spanish origins.3 Surrounded by and integral to Suite 347s panoply of circus performers and bullfighters , of musketeers and harem ladies, of harlequins and other refugees from the commedia dell'arte, the Celestina scenes nevertheless form an identifiable series that Picasso would confirm later by re-using them in a subsequent printing. In 1971, Picasso collaborated on a collector's edition of La Célestine, in which a French translation of Rojas's text was published together with the sixty-six Celestina etchings and aquatints taken from Suite 347-4 The fact that Picasso himself chose these images for the project and parricipated directly in the realization of this edition through the Louise Leiris Gallery justifies their designation as his Celestina etchings. But what may make them most intriguing for readers of Rojas's Celestina is their unflinching corroboration of Rojas's radically critical vision of what Roberto González EchevarrÃ-a calls "the dark abyss of modernity" (11). As we shall see in a selection of these images, Picasso finds in Rojas's work a kindred spirit and a useful metaphor for engaging with the classical canon of Western visual artists as well as for exposing and commenting on his own role as an "Old Master" of modern art. This understanding of the radically modern, some might say postmodern, spirit of Rojas's work has been emerging for several decades in Celestina studies. In Celestinas Brood, a book that marks a key momenr in this interpretive paradigm shift, González EchevarrÃ-a characterizes Rojas's work as the progenitor of a viper's brood of modern writings in which language is ripped open to reveal that even the literal is a figurative trope and that nothing exists outside the cheats of discourse. Quoting Dorothy Severin's insight that "all the literary models fail [to describe reality accurately or profitably ] at the end of the work" after Melibeas dramatic suicide speech and Pleberio's lament (Severin 117), González EchevarrÃ-a goes one step furrher. He concludes "that received knowledge, even in the form of religion, is but an elaborate cover-up that literature must constantly expose" (31). There is then no true "critique of authority " because that would imply that there is a more sturdy foundation from which one might honestly criticize the flawed nature of a particular type of discourse. Rojas's work, according to this view, teaches us that "without the delusions of language and literature , fleeting and dangerous as they may be, there is nothing..." (32). Celestinesque literature—the prototype of the "modern myth of literarure"—is a truth-telling lie [just as art is for Picasso in the quotation from 1923 cited above...