This piece was painted just after the suicide of one of Picasso’s close friends. During this time, he was sympathetic towards the plight of the downtrodden and many of his paintings depicted the miseries of the poor, the ill and those cast out of society. He knew what it was like to be impoverished, having been nearly penniless during all of 1902. It was painted in Madrid, Spain and the distorted style is reminiscent of the works of El Greco.
The painting is notable for the ghostly presence of a mysterious image painted underneath (bottom two images). It is very likely that Picasso originally started to paint a portrait of a woman, who appears to be in an upset or worried mood.