Dalou began to model the female nude in intimate domestic scenes in the early 1870s. During this period he was resident in England as a republican exile. Up to this date his reputation was largely focused on his figures of women reading and nursing their children. The exploration of the nude was a natural development.
Dalou's well known skill in rapid modelling in terracotta ideally suited these studies. Many of these maquettes are preserved in the Petit Palais and Musée d'Orsay. A few maquettes were worked up into more finished terracotta. No life-time bronze casts exist because Dalou discouraged the production of commercial editions. However, several of these models were cast from 1902, first by the Hebrard and subsequently by the Susse foundries. The bronzes made by Hebrard in paricular have very subtle patinas and precise lost wax casting which retain all the delicate surface textures of the original terracotta.
It is interesting to note that Dalou began to explore the theme of women washing and drying a decade before Degas worked on similar subject matter. If Dalou had been more open to casting his models in editions his original contribution to the development of the nude in late nineteenth century French art would be more widely appreciated.
A. Simier, Jules Dalou. Le sculpteur de la République, exh. cat. Petit Palais - Musées des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2013, pp. 388-389, no. 315