The present drawing depicts a seated nude woman, viewed in strict profile, with the sharply delineated, classicizing features of Greco-Roman statuary (a crisp brow, straight nose, small mouth, and clean jaw). She holds in both hands a large bowl of apples, the rim of which is decorated with a meander pattern popular on ancient Greek vases. The figure's expression is neutral and poised, her hair is gathered in a simple chignon at the base of the neck, and her seat is a plain, unadorned cube. The style of the drawing is taut and linear, anticipating the classicizing, Ingres-like portraits of Olga Khokhlova, among others, that Picasso would make in the years immediately following the First World War. The same stylized profile appears in several other drawings that Picasso made in 1902 and 1903, including preparatory studies for the Blue Period masterpieces, Les deux soeurs and La Vie (Daix nos. A.14 and D.IX.10, respectively; for additional examples, see Zervos, vol. 1, no. 195; vol. 6, nos. 434 and 531).
Picasso's exploration of this rigorously idealized facial type may reflect his interest during this period in neo-classical masters such as Puvis de Chavannes and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Picasso was first introduced to the work of Puvis in the late 1890s by the Catalan painter Santiago Rusiñol and is known to have copied at least two scenes from Puvis's frescoes in the Panthéon in 1902 (see Lots 15 and 20). Richard Wattenmaker has declared, "Puvis de Chavannes was surely one of the major--not minor--determinants of Picasso's Blue Period work. Picasso, ambitious as he was intelligent, with a knowledge of the old masters from the Prado and frescoes from Catalonia firmly in mind, found Puvis perhaps simpler to integrate than other of his contemporaries, and he did so with a skill and ease, even a virtuosity, which was always the hallmark of his art" (Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1975, pp. 168 and 177).
Although Ingres is not usually cited as an important influence on Picasso until 1905, when a retrospective of his work was mounted at the Salon d'Automne, it is likely that Picasso's interest in Ingres pre-dates this exhibition. A comic strip that Picasso drew to document his journey to Paris with Sebastià Junyer Vidal in April 1904 includes a sketch of the duo at Montauban, Ingres's hometown (Z., vol. 6, no. 487; Museu Picasso, Barcelona). The most likely explanation for this stop, which would have required changing trains at Toulouse, is that they visited the Musée Ingres there. Fernande Olivier, who shared Picasso's life from 1904 to 1912, recalled that the artist's favorite paintings at the Louvre were those of El Greco, Goya, and above all Ingres, and it may well be that Picasso had admired Ingres's work during his early trips to Paris as well (Picasso et ses amis, Paris, 1933, p. 182).