Degas did not give this work its title, and it seems likely that this figure is not even a dancer. The idea for the sculpture may have originated in a series of studies of bathers climbing out of a bath and drying their feet. As in all his sculptures, Degas has focused not on the figure's sexual identity but on her physical action. 'These women of mine', he once said, 'are honest, simple folk, unconcerned by any other interests than those involved in their physical condition'. While such comments are, to some extent, typical of nineteenth-century attitudes, recent scholars have debated the assumptions about class and gender that Degas' works reveal.
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