Giuseppe de Nittis was born in Barletta, a small town in southern Italy in 1846. After his initial training with Giovanni Battista Calò, de Nittis entered the Instituto delle Belle Arti in Naples in 1861 where he studied under Giuseppe Mancinelli.
By the 1870s, de Nittis was a widely recognized painter in Europe and had built up an impressive international clientele. In addition to an apartment in Italy and England, he worked out of a studio in Paris where he supplied the noted dealer Goupil with a constant inventory of paintings. He followed a demanding exhibition schedule that took him not only to the Salon in Paris but across the continent to London.
Apart from his dedication to oil painting, de Nittis also experimented in printmaking and was an accomplished pastellist. His close ties to his contemporaries Giovanni Boldini and Federico Zandomeneghi, both master pastellists, undoubtedly influenced and encouraged his own exploration of the media. The present work dates to 1879, a particularly rewarding year for the artist. He gained membership to the prestigious Assocazione Artistica Internazionale di Roma and nominated "Accademico di merito" at the Accademia Linguistica de Belle Arti di Genova.
Elegant ladies had always figured prominently in de Nittis's oeuvre and he was particularly sensitive to the portrayal of the female form. His sitters displayed no stiffness and formality, but were noted for their relaxed and often pensive poses as if they were unaware of the very presence of the artist. In Nudo con le calze rosse, one of the artist's most intimate depictions, de Nittis uses a simple palette of colors and applies the pastel with energetic flourishes, never losing sight of the model's body, which is a subtly defined by the red stockings and the tonal gradations of white that builds up volume in the figure.