The present work is a study for the figure of the mother in Schjerfbeck's The Alarm of 1935. The idea for the subject came to her one evening in Ekenäs when she was looking out of the window and saw, in a room across the street, through the green glass of the window, two women in an intriguingly beautiful position. Schjerfbeck immediately started looking for models for the two figures. She was very keen to catch the movement of the subjects she had seen in the window, as well as the evening light (see H. Ahtela, Helena Schjerfbeck, Helsingfors, 1953, p. 262).
Schjerfbeck made several sketches, studies and replicas of the two figures from The Alarm, later named 'mother' and 'daughter'. Although the finished image relies heavily for its visual power on the interplay between the two figures, Schjerfbeck does not completely concentrate on line at the expense of colour. In the present version, Schjerfbeck subdues the bold contrast of the colours of the final version into a subtlety of tone that is more reminiscent of the original visual effect through the green glass of the window pane during that moment in Ekenäs.
Gottard Johansson writes with regard to the figures in Alarm that they are 'relieved of everything unnecessary and accidental and with the entire expression collected in the interplay of the lines of the figures...the inner music, that slowly begins to ring already in the soft rhythms of the 90s art, now reaches its fullest expression' (Helene Schjerfbeck, Stockholm, 1940, p. 48). Schjerfbeck's mastery of line and composition is perfectly demonstrated by the lock of hair that coquettishly extends from the far side of her face, complementing the shadow cast by her nose and resolving the downward tilt of the composition. The present work relates most closely to the oil of the same year (Ateneum no. 412) but here the medium imparts a purity in the smoothness of the surface that further accentuates the subtlety of pose and the intensity of the figure's calm solitude.