Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville have confirmed that this drawing is included in their Bernheim-Jeune archives as an authentic work.
The medium of pastel was increasingly used for portraiture during the 1880s, its prevalence attributed to the influential work of Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Renoir also adopted this technique and contributed to its revival. His interest in the use of pastel derived from his veneration of 18th Century French art; he especially admired Jean-Antoine Watteau's mastery of the technique. Berthe Morisot, Jean-Louis Forain and Armand Guillauman also worked frequently in this medium. These artists concentrated mainly on female sitters, whom they believed to be particularly appropriate subjects for the delicacy, richness and iridescent effects of pastel.
In the present work, Renoir has portrayed two young women dressed in their most elegant boulevard finery. The marks of the pastel stick are loose and energetic, lending the drawing an air of freshness and spontaneity. Joris-Huysmans described Renoir as "a gallant and adventurous magician...He is the true painter of young women; he renders in sparkling sunshine the sheen of their tender skin, the velvet of their flesh, the luster of their eyes, the elegance of their gestures" (quoted in N. Wadley, Renoir: A Retrospective, New York, 1987, p. 156).
At the end of his life, Renoir told his son Jean: "What is certain is that since my trip to Italy I've been working away on the same problems" (quoted in J. House, "Renoir's Worlds," Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 13). Certainly one of the most important of these challenges was to discover the most effective means of transforming the modern woman into l'éternel féminin, for Renoir believed that "in literature as well as in painting, talent is shown only by the treatment of the feminine figure" (ibid., p. 16).