The origin of this provocative double portrait is most likely to be found in François Clouet's Lady in a bath of circa 1571 (The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.), in which a nude woman appears in a tub lined with white cloth beneath crimson curtains to protect her from the cold. The sitters in the present painting may be identified as Gabrielle d'Estrées (on the right), the mistress of Henry IV, and presumably one of her sisters, the duchesse de Villars. Behind the pair, an older woman nurses a swaddled baby while gazing directly out at the beholder. In the far background, a younger maid proffers a jug behind a carpet-draped table in a stately room with an ornately decorated fireplace. All of these elements derive from the Washington panel, but have been appropriated and modified to create the new composition, of which multiple versions exist, including versions in the Louvre, Paris (inv. RF 1937-1), the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, Musée du Château de Fontainebleau, the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, and in three private collections. The existence of so many versions attests to the subject's importance and popularity. Another canvas in the Musée Languedocien, Montpellier (Collections de la Société Archéologique de Montpellier, inv. 918.7.1) most closely matches the present canvas; it shows the two sisters in analogous poses but dressed in diaphanous peignoirs (see I. Bardiès-Fronty et al. Le bain et le miroir, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2009, pp. 276-277, no. Ec29. In some versions, Gabrielle presents a ring to her sister, which may be identified as the anneau du sacré, worn by Henri when he became king and solemnly married his kingdom of France. In others, the duchesse de Villars pinches Gabrielle's nipple, a gesture referring to lactation and emphasizing her potential for child-bearing. As a group, these images have been interpreted as allusions to Gabrielle's aspirations to marry Henri IV after bearing him an heir (see R. Trinquet, 'L'Allégorie politique dans la peinture française au XVI siècle: les Dames au bain,' Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, 1967, pp. 7-25). This would never come to pass, as Gabrielle died in 1599, just days after giving birth to a stillborn son.