This woman’s face has the angular beauty of an African mask. At the time of this painting, African art was flooding Paris, where the artist lived and worked. You can see its influence in this woman’s elongated features, close-set eyes, and small mouth. Other details, like her large, rough hands and rolled-up sleeves are meant to reveal her working-class status.
Modigliani wrote, “Happiness is an angel with a serious face.” Judging from this woman’s haunting gaze, it’s likely that her presence made the artist happy.