Henriette, Bourgeois's older sister, suffered from a stiff and swelling leg. The sister required therapy, but did not actually have a prosthetic limb as seen here.
During the 1930s, Bourgeois worked at the Louvre. On her way, she often passed a prosthetics shop, and in the museum she saw many WWI amputees who were employed as guards.
The cut-out leg portion of this composition is a digital print of the source sculpture, overlaid with lithography and foamcore. This element is flat, although contours within the image give it a sense of dimension.
According to printer Judith Solodkin of SOLO Impression, the wrench key at the top is mean to symbolize the potential unlocking of the screws at the knee joint.
If you are interested in reproducing images from The Museum of Modern Art web site, please visit the Image Permissions page (www.moma.org/permissions). For additional information about using content from MoMA.org, please visit About this Site (www.moma.org/site).