Anarchistic, subversive and a great individualist, Picabia was one of the most active and original members of the Dada movement. In 1912 Picabia met Marcel Duchamp, who influenced his thinking and prompted him to use mechanical objects as ciphers for human emotions and sexual relations. Picabia developed an anthropomorphic reading of machines that are disguised in a quasi-abstract image. The apparatus in this work was most likely copied from a popular science book. Paroxysm of Pain refers to a sudden, overwhelming violent emotion; we can imagine the handle being rotated in a slow, grinding motion causing intense pain.