Richly textured and saturated with brilliant colour, Rouault's bust of a harlequin belongs to the artist's most expressive and beloved series. While this character was famous as an alter-ego for Picasso during the first-half of the twentieth century, Rouault claimed the character for himself in later years, painting images of the figure that are now universally equated with his art. These nomadic entertainers represented freedom and naïveté for the artist, as he stated: ‘Acrobats and horsewomen, sparkling or passive clowns, tightrope walkers and freaks, and my friends, colour and harmony, since my earliest childhood I have been in love with you’ (quoted in Bernard Dorival & Isabelle Rouault, Rouault, l'œuvre peint, Monte Carlo, 1988, vol. I, p. 153). Rather than the outward signs of make-up, powder and sparkle, the artist was more concerned with the life hidden behind them. In the present work, he combats the potential frivolity of the subject by employing a Cloisonnist style and delineating the figure with black outlines. Unlike other artists working in this style, however, Rouault has used boundless expressionistic brushstrokes that deconstruct form and bring his subject to the edge of abstraction, seen here in the thick, sweeping brushstrokes of radiant pink and dazzling white that surround the figure.