The character of the Musketeer came to figure more and more in Picasso's art towards the end of his life. For decades, his pictures had often portrayed strange worlds in his imagination, peopled by centaurs, classical artists, minotaurs and various other characters. The Musketeer became more prevalent in Picasso's work during the 1960s--while convalescing following a surgical procedure, Picasso read Dumas' Les trois mousquetaires ("The Three Musketeers") and pored through volumes of Rembrandt drawings. These swashbuckling characters leapt from the pages and into a new life through Picasso's paintings and drawings. They were chivalric, they spoke of adventure, and hailed from the past yet possessed a uniquely modern sensibility.
In one sense, these characters owed their existence in Picasso's pantheon of characters to the spirit of Rembrandt, which Picasso felt pursued him throughout his life like a strange surrogate father-figure. "Every painter takes himself for Rembrandt," he had said (quoted in F. Gilot & C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, Toronto and London, 1964, p. 51). Using a projector to cast vast images of Rembrandt's famous Night Watch on the walls of his home, Picasso imagined the muskateer-like guards stepping from his walls and into his world. The man in the present drawing is one of these figures, trapped in the studio.
The swashbuckling world of the Musketeer was a pointed subject for Picasso towards the end of his life, as he himself was not as active as he might have wished. This was made all the more apparent by the age gap between him and his wife, and the lasting results of a combination of age and operations, a factor that he discussed with his old friend, the photographer Brassaï:
Whenever I see you, my first impulse is to....offer you a cigarette, even though I know that neither of us smokes any longer. Age has forced us to give it up, but the desire remains. It's the same with making love. We don't do it any more but the desire is still with us! (quoted in J. Richardson, "L'Epoque Jacqueline," pp. 17-48, Late Picasso: Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints 1953-1972, exh. cat., London & Paris, 1988, p. 29).
It is this desire, as well as the open, even existential, thirst for life of an artist all too aware of his increasing age that charges Nu et mousquetaire assis. This picture, combining both whimsy and the artist's own profound and private concerns, has erotic content and--in its bold, expressionistic draughtsmanship--immense gusto, leading to an intoxicating sense of enthusiasm that affects even the viewer.