Images of women at their toilet offered the largely male printmakers access to a world that was normally closed to them, in which nude or semi-naked women with their hair let down believed themselves to be unobserved.
This voyeuristic pleasure was heightened by the choice of angles — viewed from above or from behind — and by the uninhibited poses adopted by the women as they washed themselves.
Strategically positioned mirrors allowed the viewer to glimpse them from the front as well.
In this instance, washing and dressing represented a ‘silent ritual’ that encouraged the viewer to reflect and meditate.
Michelle Perrot, Philippe Ariès, Georges Duby, A History of Private Life IV. From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War, Cambridge 1990
Susan Hollis Clayson, ‘Looking within the Cell of Privacy’, in Peter Parshall et al., The Darker Side of Light. Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900, London 2009
Nadeije Laneyrie-Dagen, Georges Vigarello, La toilette. Naissance de l'intime, Paris 2015