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From 1917 Picasso made overt reference to the art of the ancient world in many of his paintings. Here the figure's facial features, the soft drapes of her dress and her apparent composure recall the grace and naturalism of fifth-century B.C. Greek sculptures. However, the massiveness of her limbs and her immobility appear to echo earlier antique art, or later Roman copies of Greek models. The ambiguity and potential for irony in this admixture of references were essential elements in Picasso's approach to the art of the past. In this picture the blue sky, as well as the strong light, evoke the Mediterranean.

August 2004