In the summer of 1919, Picasso and his wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, sojourned to the South of France to enjoy their second honeymoon. There Picasso began a series of gouaches and drawings of guéridons, or pedestal tables, which would occupy him for much of the next two years. These guéridons were so central to his work at this time that John Richardson devotes a chapter entitled Summer at Saint-Raphaël (The Guéridon) to them in his definitive biography on the artist, explaining that "Picasso's traditional attitude toward the bride who loved to sit for him made it very difficult to portray her in any but a traditionally representative way. To reconcile conventional love for Olga with his pursuit of modernity, he turned to the subject of the anthropomorphic guéridon, which had preoccupied him the previous winter, and applied it to Olga instead of to himself...[T]he works executed at Saint-Raphaël are about Olga and are intrinsically feminine, honeymoon images that radiate with love and sunny freshness and no hints of Picassian darkness" (A Life of Picasso, The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932, New York, 2007, vol. 3, p. 136).
During this period, Picasso worked alternately in both Cubist and Neoclassical styles, and sometimes interwove them (fig. 1). In 1920, the Cubist elements trumped the Neoclassical ones in Picasso's still-lifes, as he reduced the picture window, table and its accoutrements to simple geometric shapes. The resulting compositions, such as the present work, were more abstract than those of the summer before.
As Richardson notes, "The development of this last great period of Synthetic Cubism can easily be followed through the 'Guéridons'...No longer did Picasso feel obligated to investigate the intricate formal and spatial problems that preoccupied him ten years before. Instead he felt free to relax and exploit his cubist discoveries in a decorative manner that delights the eye...Never again did the artist's style recapture the air of magisterial calm that is such a feature of this last great phase of Cubism" (Picasso, An American Tribute, New York, 1962, p. 52).
(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, Etudes, winter 1920-1921. Musée Picasso, Paris.