Degas was introduced to the monotype technique in 1876 by his friend and fellow artist Ludovic Lepic (1839-1889), initiating an intense period of creativity in the medium. Many depict scenes of prostitutes in brothel interiors and were never exhibited in public during the artist's lifetime because of their risqué subject matter. The women are often depicted at leisure, idling away their time as they wait for their next customer, dozing, attending to their toilette or reading a book. In this plate, a naked woman lies on a divan in a darkened room, reading a journal, illuminated by suffused daylight pouring through a net covered window. She is relaxing after her bath, the rim of which can be seen at the far right. The print belongs to a series of large 'dark field' manner monotypes which Degas completed during this period. In this method the plate is completely coated with ink and the design is created by wiping away ink with a rag, gauze or sharp implement, to make highlights and half-tones. Generally Degas pulled only two impressions from the inked plate; the first pull printing with strong tonal contrast, and the second, known as a cognate, printed from the residual ink left on the plate and much paler in effect.
Both the first (J. 139) and second impressions of this subject were sold together in the sale of prints found in Degas studio (the Vente d'Estampes) on 18 November 1918, lot 249.