Probably painted from life, a semi-clad woman rests with her face hidden and her breast and shoulders exposed. This viewpoint–with the woman observed from above and behind–emphasizes her submissiveness and the spectator's control. The row of small tables and chairs implies a less-than-private setting, perhaps a cafe or brothel. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec explored the worlds of the theater, the cabaret, and the brothel–what the poet Charles Baudelaire called "the pleasures of Parisian life." Edgar Degas's series of pastel bathers, which were exhibited at the eighth Impressionist exhibition in spring 1886, may have inspired this particular subject and unusual angle of view.
To quickly capture the scene, Toulouse-Lautrec used tempera or casein, both quick-drying, opaque media that emphasize individual strokes rather than smooth modeling. The layered, linear strokes of pastel colors impose a common texture on the picture's various elements: skin, hair, cloth, wood, and wicker.