Pablo Picasso visited the Mérando Circus in Montmartre several times a week, and by 1904 he had introduced circus performers into his paintings and sculpture. Picasso spent time backstage in an effort to explore and understand the private lives of performers. He felt a deep sympathy for these entertainers who, like artists, lived itinerant lifestyles and were considered social outsiders. In this work, Picasso contrasts the jester’s more private and quiet demeanor with his comical public persona, represented by the cap from his costume. Picasso turned to sculpture when he was searching for a new direction. The Jester is informed by the emotionally charged paintings of saltimbanques—itinerant circus performers—that preceded it and the detached portraits that followed.