Couple nu is part of a sizable group of drawings with explicitly sexual themes that Picasso made on the business cards of his friend Junyer Vidal. These range from relatively chaste images of reclining female nudes (Zervos, vol. I, nos. 124-125, 128) to more graphic scenes, such as one that depicts a naked woman in a contorted pose and an aging dandy whose bald head opens up into a vagina (see J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, London, 1991, vol. I, p. 280). John Richardson, who dates the drawings to 1903, has written, "[This] group provides a microcosm of Picasso's sexual fantasies: some have a graffiti-like directness; others an adolescent prurience; the most revealing manifest a perversity and misogyny that anticipate the artist's surrealist chimeras of the 1930s" (ibid., p. 281). Likewise, Pierre Daix has commented, "There are a great many drawings which breathe physical pleasure and prowess: on the business cards of his friend Junyer Vidal and on every kind of paper, in ink, colored crayon, and watercolor. They constitute a regular theater of the erotic, whose daring is breathtaking for a period still so profoundly Victorian in outlook, and were not, in fact, made public until after the cultural revolution of the 1960s. They provide us with a dimension fundamental to an understanding of the 'blue' Picasso: sex--in all its experimental variety--must be recognized, because it is an important element in life and art" (Picasso: Life and Art, New York, 1993, p. 33).
The present drawing depicts a young woman and a bearded man, both nude. The figures are cropped at the upper thigh, so that only part of the woman's buttocks and the top of the man's pubic mound are visible. The couple stands arm's-length apart, and their touch seems demure, almost hesitant. Yet the man stares fixedly at the woman's breast, lending the scene a potent erotic charge. The breast occupies almost the exact center of the image, at the point where the two figures' arms cross, and is positioned awkwardly on the woman's torso to maximize its visibility. In a related scene, also drawn on the back of a Junyer Vidal business card, Picasso depicts himself seated on a bed alongside a naked woman, whose arms are raised to display her breasts. The two figures do not touch, and the entire erotic charge of the scene is concentrated in the artist's fixed gaze (see J. Richardson, op. cit., p. 280).