The dashing figure of a musketeer drawing his rapier, by Pablo Picasso, is among nine of the Spanish painter's post-war masterpieces expected to fetch more than £8m at a sale on Monday.
They are being auctioned at Christie's with 56 pieces by prominent impressionist and modern artists including Edgar Degas and Marc Chagall.
The celebrated Homme a l'epee (Man with Sword), was painted in 1969, and it is characteristic of the self-deprecatory humour in a series of works featuring the musketeers and cavaliers.
Years earlier, while recuperating from surgery in Mougins, Picasso had read Dumas' The Three Musketeers , and was struck by the richness of the characters. It is estimated to fetch £2,5m to £3,5m.
Works from Picasso's later years were, until recently, believed to be of less significance than his early pieces but increased interest in post-war paintings has resulted in a critical reappraisal of his output then. Jussi Pylkkänen, international director of impressionist and modern art, said: "Picasso's dramatic post-war paintings are hugely sought-after by collectors of post-war modernism. Prices have risen steadily over the past three years."
The collection includes Nu a la draperie (Nude at the Curtain), which was completed in 1907, the inception of Cubism, of which Picasso was a pioneer, and was painted shortly after his famed masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon .
His wife and lovers feature in the bold portraits including Tete de femme aux boucles vertes , (Woman's Head with Green Curls) which shows his partner, Françoise Gilot, who was living with the artist in 1946, with green hair, inspired by the artist, Henri Matisse. Picasso is noted to have said: "Matisse isn't the only one who can paint you with green hair."
The artist met Ms Gilot years earlier when she was a young artist in her own right. Buste de femme , painted in 1968, shows the distinctive face of Picasso's second wife, Jacqueline. The pair had been married since the early 1960s, and Jacqueline was Picasso's last great love and muse, but in this work, he has deliberately distorted her to create a jarring image, regarded as an affront to traditional notions of painting and of beauty.
Tete devant la fenetre appears to be Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso's lover for most of the 1930s. Never publicly exhibited, the painting was in the family collection since its purchase from Paul Rosenberg in Paris in January 1939.
Picasso's humour is in his depiction of a cat stalking a lobster, Chat et homard (estimated to sell for £800,000 to £1.2m). Nature morte au gobelet , was finished about 1914 and presented by Picasso to his friend, the Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky.
Also on sale is Femme nue tenant une serviette , which has a luminescent figure in calligraphic lines, and La Cafetiere bleue , a coffee pot on a tall table.