This study of a female nude with her head leaning against her left hand and a headband encircling her hair is typical of the figure subjects O'Conor composed in his capacious Montparnasse studio in the years leading up to the First World War. He explored a similar pose in an ink drawing (Thierry-Lannon, Brest, 14 October 2009, lot 396), but in the oil the model's legs were bent at the knee rather than held straight. The artist covered his studio divan with brightly coloured drapes and placed it beneath the tall windows lining one side of the first floor premises at 102 rue du Cherche-midi. The light from the windows glances down and across the model's head, torso and limbs, restricting the shadows to little more than contours around her arms and thigh. The net result of this arrangement is that the figure gleams with light, an effect O'Conor reinforces by a masterly use of space, with the far wall and bookcase at a sufficiently remote distance for them to be kept out of the light. By way of contrast, the front of the divan is picked out in warm pink and yellow, whilst the blue drape is relieved by bright red dots, all rendered in fluidly applied paint.
The way O'Conor reconciles the gloomy recesses of the room with the radiant foreground recalls Walter Sickert's approach to painting the nude. The latter's name was mentioned in a letter O'Conor wrote to Clive Bell on 30 December 1909 (National Gallery of Ireland Archive, Dublin), and it is possible the Irish artist read Sickert's article 'The Naked and the Nude' (The New Age, 21 July 1910) in which he attributed 'the chief source of pleasure in the aspect of a nude' to the 'nature of a gleam - a gleam of light and warmth and life.' To enhance this radiance the figure should 'be seen in surroundings of drapery or other contrasting surfaces.'