This delightful scene of young women frolicking in a woodland pool has little in common with the satirical tone of many of Rowlandson's watercolours. Rather than criticising the follies of contemporary society, it represents a timeless scene of light-hearted gaiety, in which a generalised, presumably mythological, context provides an excuse for a depiction of voluptuous female nudes. Its classicised spirit suggests that it should be most closely associated with Rowlandson's openly mythological watercolours, such as Apollo and the Muses (circa 1810, Huntingdon Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California). Rowlandson executed a number of classicised works towards the end of his career, perhaps inspired to engage with traditionally elevated subjects on his own irreverent terms.
A tantalising glimpse into Rowlandson's watercolours of this type is provided by a drawing sold in these Rooms on 12 December 1924, lot 48. Titled Nymphs Bathing and dated 1794, its present whereabouts is unknown (see J. Hayes, Rowlandson: Watercolours and Drawings, London, 1972, p. 63, no. 94). It is unlikely to have been the present drawing, which differs slightly in size, but must have shown a similar scene. A version of the present subject, with minor differences, was sold in these Rooms on 9 July 1985, lot 57.