The warrior motif and the plaster's resemblance to pristine white marble allude to classical sculpture, but this work is, in fact, built from an assortment of found objects. The industrial pipe on which the warrior leans is only one of many surprising objects Picasso incorporated into this sculpture; others have been covered in plaster. A tennis ball forms the shape of each eye, X–ray analysis has revealed a crowbar lodged in the warrior's neck, and the ridges toward the base of the sculpture are formed from corrugated metal or cardboard. The warrior’s semicircular headdress is supported by a piece of chicken wire and decorated with discarded pieces of sculptural molds.
Gallery label from Focus: Picasso Sculpture, July 3–November 3, 2008.
Picasso was pioneering in his incorporation of non-artistic materials into such sculptures as Head of a Warrior. However, he created sound structural foundations through the use of traditional sculptural techniques, here deployed in a loose and scrappy manner. Academically trained sculptors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were taught to build up forms in plaster, wax, or clay around a support stand. As can be seen in this x-ray image, the stand for Head of a Warrior is an adjustable pipe—partially visible on the sculpture's exterior—that creates a central spine around which Picasso formed the bust. Twisted wire, bent into shape, adds structural support for the sculpture's many contours, as do the nails stuck between the twists in the wire—as can be seen in the x-ray image of the warrior's nose. The x-ray also exposes some less traditional aspects of Picasso's production: A crowbar is lodged at the back of the figure's neck; the tennis ball that forms the shape of the warrior's eye is visible as a circle at the center of the face; and the chicken wire support for the warrior's headdress is in plain sight.
Additional text from Conservation Notes, X-Ray Analysis for Picasso's Head of a Warrior, August 2008.