La fille et le moine belongs to a series of large ink and wash drawings Picasso executed between 1959 and 1960, focused on a small repertoire of iconic Spanish images of 'Slender ladies with towering mantillas, witchlike peasant women and flamenco dancers surround[ing] the impassive picador, centre of all admiration, in an aura of flying skirts and provocative gestures.' As Penrose argues: 'The drawings, masterly in their creation of movement and suspense, were once a brilliant proof of Picasso's nostalgia for Spain and the ease with which he could communicate his passion to us. Never had the skill of his hand as a draftsman and the invention of his wit been used with more cunning and with more success' (R. Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, London, 1971, p. 443).
In 1959, when the present work was executed, Picasso had recently purchased the Château de Vauvenargues, a fortified bastide situated to the north of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, ‘Cézanne’s mountain’, just outside the town of Aix-en-Provence. There, Picasso spent several periods of time drawing and painting, and seeking a more isolated environment than Cannes, with the muse of his old age, Jacqueline Roque, whom he had met in 1952 and he would marry in 1961. Jacqueline was the only woman Picasso depicted in the last 17 years of his life (they spent 20 together), and it is possible that the dark, elegant features of the female figure in the present work were inspired by the artist’s preferred model of that time.
In La fille et le moine, the large composition, set against a plain background, shows a young girl, in contrast to the figure of the Celestina, or hooded old woman, a recurrent image throughout Picasso’s œuvre since 1903-1904, and that of the monk to the right. The generous, dynamic brushworks, applied onto a thick, textured support, provide a rich sense of movement which makes the scene even more realistic.
The present work was exhibited within the series it belongs to at the with Galerie Louise Leiris in 1960, and was shortly after purchased by the grandfather of the present owner.