Little is known of the history of this painting or the woman's identity. The exceptionally small size of the work indicates that it may be a study, or even a fragment from a larger canvas. Unusually for Degas, the painting itself offers few clues about the identity of the model or the significance of her melancholic gaze. It is possible that it should be seen one of a number of small studies of female figures executed by Degas in the early 1870s on the theme of different emotions and moods. These pictures were part of Degas' project to examine and record different aspects of female experience in public and private life.