Edouard Frédéric Wilhelm Richter was born in 1844, the son of a Dutch mother and German father. His extensive artistic education took him first to the Hague Academy, then to Antwerp, and finally to the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris. A pupil of Léon Bonnat and Ernest Hébert, the fledgling artist first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1866 and over the next fifty years exhibited a wide variety of subjects, from historical genre scenes, portraits and the Orientalist paintings for which he is best known.
Models in Repose, painted in 1876, stands by far as one of the most accomplished of all his genre pictures. It is very likely that the setting depicted is Richter's own studio offering the viewer a curious glimpse into an artist's day at work. Rather than portray himself painting in his studio, Richter chooses to capture the models in a moment of rest. As we enter the scene, two young women are seen chatting during a break; one woman, dressed in Italian country dress sits hands clasped over her knees next to another model dressed in a red jester's outfit who smokes and lounges on a settee. The subject is clearly a playful commentary on the life of models and a certain ennui that is a normal part of the occupation. The rigid formality of Richter's earlier portraiture gives way to a more complex, sophisticated multi-layered composition whereby the artist focus the viewer's attention not solely on the models but on the studio filled with assortment of props, ornaments and furniture.
An important distinguishing characteristic of Richter's work that can be seen throughout his oeuvre is his skill in capturing rich detail and textures, a strength that is evident in the details of the studio setting which includes some notable examples. The interior of the studio is dimly lit, dominated by earth tones. As a result Richter is able punctuate the setting with flashes of color. Most impressive is the high degree of finish and shine on the satins worn by the reclining model. Her red cape has been carelessly thrown on the floor along with the jester's hat, an act that perhaps point toward an attitude of 'nonchalance' on the part of the models. An overflowing box of fabrics sits on a dark piece of furniture which marks a division of the room. The rugs and tapestries decorating the studio give warmth to the scene and hold a variety of studio props; a bugle, a sitar, emblems, crests and shields. To the left of the table, the unfinished portrait of the jester is draped by a green velvet throw signaling the model's session will soon come to a close.