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After the suffering of the Second World War, Picasso made a number of monochromatic works concerned with atrocities in the Korean War. He also painted four versions of this still-life subject, whose inspiration appears to have been the execution of the Communist partisan Nikos Beloyannis by the Greek government. The grey tones establish the sombre mood, while the candle and skull are traditional reminders of death. His willingness to take a moral stand reinforced Picasso's status as the most influential artist of his generation.

November 2005