The fact that female nudes shock, as well as excite viewers, is an essential part of their appeal. Magritte tackles this subject head-on. In creating this unusual work, he may have been making an ironic comment on the entire western artistic ideal of the perfect female nude. Magritte wrote in 1935 that he was "thinking of pictures which represent only a single already existing or imagined object, or part of an object, a woman's breast, for instance". Magritte cut out the painting to the contours of the woman's body and had a special, shaped frame made for it. It emphasises the strange relationship between paintings and the real world.
This was the only time Magritte used a shaped frame for one of his paintings. The painting was originally square, but several months after painting it the artist decided to cut it down and have a new frame specially made. He may have been influenced by a pair of portraits in shaped frames painted by Salvador Dalí the previous year. Magritte wrote that the finished work 'constitutes a rather surprising object, I think.' Magritte was very particular about the titles of his works, and preferred them to be poetic and surprising rather than descriptive.
Magritte was born in Belgium and, apart from a few years spent in Paris in the late 1920s, lived there all his life. Unlike many Surrealists, Magritte did not subscribe to the view that the unconscious could be expressed through chance or 'automatic' techniques. Instead, he planned and executed his paintings with all the deliberation and skill of an academic painter. The results are surprisingly credible images of seemingly illogical scenes. Magritte would undermine logic by tampering with scale and by placing unrelated objects in unexpected settings. A constant theme running through his art is the relationship that exists between the painted image and the visible world, between fiction and reality. Magritte's art blurs the boundaries between the two.