This iconic image marks the beginning of Picasso's prodigious career as a printmaker. The sense of despondency and isolation is typical of his work at this time. Executed in only two states, the etching possesses a remarkable confidence and skill that belies Picasso's lack of formal training in printmaking. He had received only rudimentary instruction from friend and fellow Spaniard Ricard Canals; previously, he had made just one other print, in 1899.Picasso had only a few copies of the etching printed at the time he finished the work in 1904. Nearly a decade later, Picasso's sometime dealer, Ambroise Vollard, bought the copper plate, strenghtened it with steel facing, and published The Frugal Repast in 1913 in an edition of two hundred and fifty. Together with an additional eleven drypoints and two etchings made by Picasso between 1904 and 1906, these early prints are commonly known as the Saltimbanques Suite.