This humorous portrait of Picasso's life-long Spanish friend, secretary and chief legend-monger is a wonderful joke. In 1938, Jaime Sabartes asked Picasso to draw him as a sixteenth-century royal courtier; those original drawings were eventually turned into this oil, painted at Royan. Portraying Sabartes as a Spanish courtier to Philip II is amusing as this was the role he played in the court of Picasso; that of the loyal servant following his master from Paris to Antibes to Royan. Although Sabartes was often represented by critics as a pathetically faithful dog, Picasso no doubt respected and returned his loyalty - albeit in his own fashion.
In comparison with the Sabartes portrait from 1901, one can see how far Picasso has progressed from his early days, when as young men they explored the bohemian Parisian cafe life of Montmartre. Here, the return to the recent plastic deformations of the face only serves to accentuate the ludicrous nature of the portrait and its notions of masquerade. But within the work, joker Picasso is also playing at masquerade, parodying the grand Spanish art master El Greco, who painted the Spanish courtiers of Philip II, and who was admired, like Picasso, for his revolutionary contortions