During the 1880s and 1890s, Degas made a series of solitary female nudes seen from behind. Many of these large pastels were densely worked and used strong coloured backgrounds against which the figure was silhouetted. Pastel had traditionally been a minor medium, but Degas’s bold experiments greatly expanded its potential. Here, the agitated chalk strokes give the impression that Degas was working a great speed, which makes the surface of the composition appear to flicker. Despite the apparent informality of the subject, the model would have been purposely posed. He may have drawn her from life in the studio, or have worked from a photograph, as this pose recurs in other works.