Known to her friends as "Sabasa," Maria Garcia Pérez de Castro was the niece of Evaristo Pérez de Castro, Spain's minister of foreign affairs and one of Goya's leading patrons. A legend is associated with this picture that, like many anecdotes, may contain an element of truth. While Goya was painting her uncle, Sabasa visited Pérez' house, and the artist, struck by her beauty, supposedly asked permission to portray her.
The sheen on Sabasa's gold shawl is a dazzling display of Goya's brushwork. Goya painted spontaneously and he rarely reworked his canvases, thus retaining the immediacy of his first impressions.