Picasso met Jacqueline Roque, who was working in the Madoura pottery works in Vallauris, in the summer of 1953. Following the final break with Françoise Gilot and a brief liaison with Sylvette David (see lot 130), Picasso first painted Jacqueline in June 1954, and they began to live together in September. They were married in Vallauris in March 1961, when Picasso was almost eighty years old.
Jacqueline never forced Picasso to choose; his relationship with her was not the agonizing, novelistic kind of love that the artist had experienced in certain of his earlier liaisons. Picasso did not have to win Jacqueline from another man, nor struggle to keep her. Her understated, gentle and loving personality combined with her unconditional commitment to him provided an emotionally stable life and a dependable foyer over a longer period of time than he had never before enjoyed. Jacqueline's presence was constant, day and night, dutifully keeping Picasso company in his studio or sitting at work in her adjacent alcove. (W. Rubin, "The Jacqueline Portraits in the Pattern of Picasso's Art", Picasso and Portraiture, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, p. 458)
Many of Picasso's portraits of Jacqueline show her in profile, facing left. Picasso became interested in Jacqueline around the time he began working on his series of variations on Eugène Delacroix's Femmes d'Algers (1834; coll. The Louvre, Paris). Picasso was intrigued by her resemblance to the odalisque crouching at lower right of Delacroix's harem scene, whose face is also seen in profile looking to the left. The dominant feature in the present work is Jacqueline's large eye, "a kind of feminine counterpart to Picasso's own mirada fuerte" (ibid., p. 459). Picasso often depicted Jacqueline wearing a kerchief or band holding back her hair from her forehead, in order to accentuate the classically simple outline of her forehead, nose, and her small but finely sculpted chin.