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In contrast to conventional treatments of this subject, Degas provides little detail in this scene of a woman at her toilette. Instead, he has focused on the formal aspects of the composition. The action of the woman combing her hair is anchored within the rectangle formed by the woman's arms and the table edge. The contrast of the soft form of the active central figure and the heavily outlined shape of the immobile maid generates a visual tension and energy, which is heightened by the rich treatment of the walls and furnishings.

August 2004