The present still life features many hallmarks of Synthetic Cubism. Starting in 1912, Picasso began to replace the fragmented forms and monochromatic tones of Analytic Cubism with a more constructionist collage approach and a brighter palette.
Elizabeth Cowling has written, "Most of Picasso's still-lifes of 1918-1924 belong to short-lived series involving subtle formal variations on a strictly limited theme. Their imagery seems secondary to their formal devices--a pretext for the variations explored throughout the series as a whole. These paintings are full of teasing ambiguities, which mitigate the effect of rationality and impersonality. Nevertheless, one senses that Picasso was primarily concerned with formal arrangements--with the creation of balanced, although asymmetrical, compositions, ingenious combinations of rhyming shapes, and contrasts of tone and color and plain and patterned surfaces. In their poise, control, and subtlety, they remind one of Chardin's modest kitchen still lifes, in which a limited repertoire of everyday objects is shuffled and reshuffled to form a series of variations on the same melodic theme" (Picasso, Style and Meaning, London, 2002, pp. 379, 381-382).
By the time he painted the present work, Picasso had been working alternately--and indeed, controversially--in two styles for some time. In addition to his continued explorations of the cubist idiom during the late teens and early 1920s, which usually took still life as their subject, he also worked in a new, classicizing manner, especially in his figural compositions. This contrast was monumentalized at Fontainebleau during the summer of 1921, when Picasso simultaneously painted the cubist Musiciens aux Masques (Zervos, vol. 4, no. 331; The Museum of Modern Art, New York) and the classicized Femmes à la fontaine (Zervos, vol. 4, no. 322; The Museum of Modern Art, New York), each a veritable manifesto of its respective visual idiom.
Josep Palau i Fabre argues the two styles were never mutually exclusive, stating, "It is as if the artist had discovered at the height of Cubism volume often strove to prevail or make its presence felt, albeit indirectly. Now, by providing it an outlet in the form of 'classicizing' representation, his hands were freer to undertake the task of evolving an absolutely flat idiom. In other words, by returning to more or less traditional painting, a kind of split took place that allowed the artist to execute works liberated from the constraints he had been forced to combat in the past. This late form of Cubism would therefore not be completely comprehensible without the return to tradition, which assumed renaissance principles and left the artist free to work in his own independent way" (Picasso, From the Ballets to Drama (1917-1926), Cologne, 1999, p. 316).