Although it is possible that this pastel was made for Picasso's June 1901 exhibition at the Galerie Vollard, its grim sensibility points to the second half of 1901. The strong contours and graphic use of pastel betray Picasso's close study of Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923) and Henri-Gabriel Ibels (1867-1936), two French illustrators who specialized in social realism and often drew on the imagery of Montmartre and its street culture. Like Picasso, Ibels exhibited at Vollard's. Both modeled their art on the vast repertoire of social commentary in the work of Honoré Daumier (1808-1979), which was much in evidence in Paris after a large retrospective was held at the École des Beaux-Arts in the summer of 1901. It is also worth noting that the German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), who recognized a kindred consciousness in Picasso, bought a picture from the show at Vollard's.
Inscription: Signed in blue pastel, lower right: -Picasso-
Collection Cumbo; [Georges Schick, Paris, until 1937; sold ca. March 1937, for Fr 20,000, to Knoedler]; [M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1937–39; stock no. 1823; sold in January 1939, for $2,600, to Oenslager]; Donald M. and Mary P. Oenslager, New York (1939–his d. 1975); Mary P. Oenslager, New York (1975–d. 1995; bequest to MMA)
Paris. Galerie Vollard. "Exposition de tableaux de F. Iturrino et de P.–R. Picasso," June 25–July 14, 1901, no. 64 [possibly this picture].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 27–August 1, 2010, no. 15.
Christian Zervos. Pablo Picasso. Vol. 1, Works from 1895 to 1906. Paris, 1932, p. 56, no. 111, ill.
Anthony Blunt and Phoebe Pool. Picasso, the Formative Years: A Study of His Sources. London, 1962, p. 30, pl. 83.
Pierre Daix and Georges Boudaille. Picasso: The Blue and Rose Periods: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, 1900–1906. Greenwich, Conn., 1967, p. 163, no. V.8, ill.
Josep Palau i Fabre. Picasso: The Early Years, 1881–1907. New York, 1981, pp. 300, 538, no. 753, ill.
Michael Leja. "'Le Vieux Marcheur' and 'Les Deux Risques': Picasso, Prostitution, Venereal Disease, and Maternity, 1899–1907." Art History 8 (March 1985), fig. 29 (between pp. 168–69).
Rebecca A. Rabinow inCézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde. Ed. Rebecca A. Rabinow. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2006, p. 314.