Modigliani's goal, at least during at the early stage in his career, was to become a sculptor. His range of his sculptural themes during the years 1910-1914, the period of his real interest in this medium, was relatively narrow. There are idol-like heads, one kneeling caryatid and a single standing figure, numbering about two dozen works in all. There are, however, many more watercolors and drawings that attest to the intensity of Modigliani's preoccupation with sculptural form during this period, and his caryatid studies in particular are among his most formally adventurous works in any medium.
The subject of the caryatid was derived from the columnar female architectural figures used to support entablatures in antiquity. Another source for Modigliani was very likely African and Oceanic tribal art, especially carved wooden stools supported by crouching female figures. However, Modigliani appears to have had little interest in the functional or decorative aspect of this figurative tradition. "The figure works primarily in a 'formal' way: its form exhausts its meaning. Under the pretext of carrying an - invisible - burden, the body and its component parts are forced in specific directions, generating a complex rhythm of horizontals, verticals, diagonals and curves. The artist has chosen his theme solely for the sake of this formal architecture" (W. Schmalenbach, Amedeo Modigliani: Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings, Munich, 1990, p. 10).
To reinforce the classical element inherent in this archaic image, Modigliani hones and reduces his forms to their utmost simplicity. The violent, primitive expression found in Picasso's early cubist work, which also took archaic and tribal art as influences, is absent in Modigliani's caryatids; he is more concerned with formal balance and repose, in which each contour is carefully delineated and set in counterpose to its neighbors. The overall effect is that of a structure unified by its linear rhythms and the delicate balance of its proportions.
The present drawing is notable for its stippled, dry-brush technique, which allows the background to take on a light and transparent aspect. The contours appear to pulsate rhythmically, lending increased dynamism to the classicism of the figure's forms. The artist probably derived this "rough" pointillist manner from the Fauves; later sources are the the decorative stippling seen in Italian Futurism and Picasso's Synthetic Cubist paintings. Modigliani used this technique only briefly, before turning to a firmer Cézannesque line.
The first owner of this drawing was Mariska Diederich, the Russian-born wife of American sculptor Wilhelm Hunt Diederich. The couple lived in Paris, where Mariska designed and made embroideries. They were close friends of Modigliani and acquired many drawings from him.