The depiction of the woman intent on her leisurely movements after bathing attracted Degas for both its thematic and stylistic implications. The subject had a strong classical appeal: from the Greek Venus of Doidálsas (III Century B.C.) to Botticelli's Nascita di Venere, the woman emerging from her bath came to epitomise the éternel féminin in its most direct power of seduction. Degas, though, instead of using exclusively classical poses and musing on tradition, explored the theme and took it to a new maturity. He asked his models to go through their ritual movements of their baths in front of him; he even set up zinc tubs for that purpose in his studio, and, from his long sessions of observation, he produced a series of lucid reflections upon the harmonic contrasts of forms and volumes. At the core of his research were the classical precedents: the chiasmoi, the subtle tensions between stretched and pulled limbs defining Greco-Roman statues of athletes cleaning their bodies with their strigils after the victory, are echoed in the depictions of the bathers drying themselves with towels, or pulling themselves out of the tub.
In the present drawing, touches of white chalk emphasise the fullness of the bather's flesh, whilst the rich, dark lines strengthen her action. Her bent arms offer a beautiful contrapposto to the oval geometry of the tub: the spontaneity and immediacy of the gesture is framed within a classically conceived composition. This reference to traditional archetypes has an important consequence: Degas clearly meant to celebrate his models, chosen from what Thompson calls 'les classes domestiques... celles qui remplissent les fonctions subalternes de la société, telles que servantes, modistes et peut-être même prostituées' ('Les poses chez Degas de 1875 à 1886: Lecture et signification', in Degas inédit, Paris, 1989, p. 222), elevating them to the high ranks of the noblest artistic tradition.
Between 1884 and 1895, Degas explored this subject in the most diverse media - from drawing, to pastel, to monotype and bronze - changing his viewpoint and perspective, whilst always confirming his obsession with the theme. It is definitely in the paper studies, however, that the artist achieved the most delicate nuances of intimacy, whilst flirting with obvious voyeurisme and a pervasive, yet extremely subtle, eroticism.