The six months that Goncharova spent in Saint Sebastien in Spain in 1916 greatly influenced her art over the following twenty years. She had travelled to Spain in the company of Larionov in order to provide designs and costumes for productions being mounted by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, in the process falling under the spell of the romantic exoticism she saw in the traditions of Spanish society which seemed closer to the surface than in other Western European countries. This Spanish influence is nowhere more apparent than in the suite of screens called Les Espagnoles (fig. 1) executed in Paris at the beginning of the 1920s, exhibited for the first time in Dresden in 1926 and known today in two versions.
The present work is a preparatory study for one of the panel today preserved in its original form in the Musée national d'art moderne in Paris and in another in a private collection. In common with the other panels in the scheme, the present work takes the subject of a traditionally dressed woman, treating it with the severe line of Goncharova's rayonist pre-1914 style, albeit within the framework of her cubist idiom. This percussive execution is softened however with small passages of organic ornamentation in the form of flowery patterns to the headresses and skirts, reminiscent of the folkish impulses in her earlier Russian period. This sense is further reinforced by the monumentality of the figures, set in shallow space and filling the picture field in a style that recalls the direct impact of holy icons.