Unlike Henri Matisse and most early 20th century painters of the female figure, Picasso rarely used professional models, except at the beginning of his career. His chief model was always "the woman he loved, with whom he shared his daily life. What he painted, then, was not a model woman but the woman-as-model. This difference had consequences in both the emotional and pictorial realm, for the beloved woman is the painting, and the painted female is the beloved woman; thus, no distance is possible" (M.-L. Bernadac, "The Painter and His Model," Ultimate Picasso, New York, 2000, p. 440).
Picasso's model from the mid-1950s to the end of his life was Jacqueline Roque, whom he met at the Madoura pottery in Vallauris and married in 1961 just before his eightieth birthday. John Richardson has designated this period in the artist's life as l'époque Jacqueline: "It is her solicitude and patience that sustained the artist in the face of declining health and death and enabled him to be more productive than ever before and to go on working into his ninety-second year" (Late Picasso, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1988, p. 47).
In the present work, Jacqueline is portrayed in the guise of an odalisque. She is bare chested, and the colorful flowing forms below her waist are the loose pants typical of harem costume. The rich, vibrant color, built up with the heavy application of one color over another, as well the placement of the figure in an interior space, is reminiscent of the odalisque paintings by Matisse, and symbolizes a nod to the works on this theme by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Eugène Delacroix which Picasso admired at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
If Delacroix and Ingres’ odalisque paintings provided the impetus for Picasso's revived interest in Orientalism, then Jacqueline's presence embodied this historical fantasy and brought it to life. "In her physique, in her strange likeness to one of the women in the [Delacroix] painting, in her temperament, her calm, her sensuous nature, [Jacqueline] represented the ultimate odalisque" (M.-L. Bernadac, "Picasso, 1953-1972, Painting as Model," exh. cat., op. cit., 1988, p. 55).