Women at their Toilette...in preparation for Leisure

Edgar Degas
Bather Stepping into a Tub c1888

Degas turns to the nude, but it is not overly erotic.  Here, a woman gets ready to enter the bathtub.  Degas was more interested in studying bodies in motion than he was in the particular eroticism of the scene.

This careful study of motion was probably aided by the use of the camera, which Degas used as a complement to his oil paintings and pastel drawings on monotypes.

Such a simple act as entering the bath would not have been considered a worthy theme for the Salon.

Edgar Degas 
Woman Drying her Foot 1885/6

The natural gesture of reaching out to dry one's foot is captured in Degas' pastel of this nude.  The pose may have been taken from a photograph that Degas took of a model in a similar position, found at his studio.  The photograph is a mirror image of this pose.  There is nothing allegorical or heroic about this figure, in contrast to Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1850).  Rather, it shows the rather strenuous stretch one must make to reach one's foot--a gesture that is probably performed daily.

Edgar Degas 
Combing the Hair c1896-1900

Further on in the laborious process of a bourgeois woman's toilette, this young woman allows her hair to be combed at home by her maid.  At the time, this may have been considered a symbol of status--however, the woman shows herself in a vulnerable state by crouching down in order to make herself beautiful. 

This is also a study in motion, as the woman who is combing her hair interlaces with the woman who is being combed.  Degas practiced depicting motion, in grand or small scale , throughout his career. He may have also been making a social commentary.

Edouard Manet
Lady with the fans
This is a portrait of Nina de Callios, a pianist and patron of the literary arts, who was the estranged wife of Hector de Callias, a journalist. The process of the toilette is done: she is dressed in exotic North African clothing, which was very fashionable at the time.  She was very wealthy and the mistress of the poor poet Charles Cros, who was not the only poor poet she slept with and subsidized as part of her harem. This painting was not shown in the Salon because her husband made Manet promise that it would never leave his studio.