Gérôme visited Istanbul twice in 1875 and met the Turkish court painter Abdullah Siriez, as well as his old student Seker Ahmet Pasha. By 1877 Siriez had arranged for photographs of Istanbul to be taken, mainly interiors, which Gérôme would later use for backgrounds to his pictures.
For the next decade there was a continual theme of pictures with a Turkish setting (see Ackerman, op. cit., pp.100 and 132-3).
The greatest and most impressive picture from this 'Bath' series is The Grand Bath at Bursa, painted in 1885 (see Ackerman op. cit. no.334). Depicting women bathing in a 16th Century bath attributed to the architect Sinan, Gérôme made several sketches, many of which were used in later compositions.
The present work almost certainly depicts the same bath. The composition of a woman by a hookah and two swimming nudes is not dissimilar to the cental scene in The Grand Bath at Bursa.
A number of similar bathing scenes are recorded, all dating from 1889-90 (see Ackerman, op. cit., nos. 374-382).