By 1905, Picasso had now been living for about a year with Fernande Olivier, a beautiful and shapely woman of whom he was both proud and jealous. She shared his bohemian life at the Bateau-Lavoir. Picasso sparkled amongst his artist friends. Amongst these was the Catalan painter, Ricardo Canals and his wife, 'the beautiful Roman woman, Benedetta, a former model for Degas and Bartholomé'. During the summer, Picasso spent some time in Holland. The country was not to his liking, but the Dutch girls managed to convert him to a more realistic conception of feminine beauty. On his return, Picasso transformed the beautiful Italian into a Spanish girl with a mantilla headdress decked with a mauve flower. There is something of Velazquez here, especially in the distant, lady-like air he gives to his friend's wife.
The portrait of Madame Canals marks the beginning of a more classical period, dominated by formal balance. Among Picasso's most notable works of his Cubist period from 1907 to 1909, several were inspired by Olivier. These include Head of a Woman (Fernande). Picasso later admitted that one figure of the Demoiselles d'Avignon was modeled after her.