Girl in a Chemise marks the end of Picasso's Blue Period. The light blue loses its icy frigidity as female beauty and lust return as suitable subject matter. This underscores the absence of real sexual passion in previous works, whose emotional tones are achieved instead by the social comment implicit in the characters' destitute state.
This face is probably of new mistress, Madeleine, featured in a series of erotic drawings, as here, with the light deliberately accented on the exposed breast. The new, shimmering blue-green provides a striking contrast with the ghostly transparency of the chemise, whose folds create notional movement. 'Chemise' may translate as 'nightshirt', underscoring the woman's sexual availability.
In the summer of 1904, Madeleine became pregnant by Picasso, but he pressurised her into having an abortion. In 1968, when this painting resurfaced, he joked, 'Can you imagine me having a son 64 years old?' However, despite starting an affair with another model, Fernande Olivier, Madeleine mother-and-child images appear at the same time as their child would have been born.
The dating of the picture is confused. The rigid colouring may place it in late 1904, as his palette did not warm up until early 1905.