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This pastel is one of the most delicately executed and finely resolved of all Degas' studies of the nude. It belongs to a celebrated series of pastels of women at their toilette produced in the mid-1880s, a group of which was included in an exhibition of Impressionist painters in Paris in 1886. Critics varied in their reactions to these works. Some praised the way Degas showed plausible, modern women rather than idealized goddesses. Others complained of the models' ugliness and suggested they were prostitutes. In this pastel, however, there are no indications of the woman's social class or line of work.

August 2004