Note how the pattern of the floor covering appears as flat as the pattern in the wallpaper, even though the floor would be sloping away from us in perspective. The all-over wallpaper pattern and the narrow, scroll-like format of the composition reflect Bonnard’s interest in Japanese art.
As in many of Bonnard’s paintings of nudes, the figure is turned away from the viewer, pensive, pre-occupied. Interesting details at the edge of the composition are typical of his work, and here the mirror image of the model catches our eye at the top right.
Like a picture within a picture, a mirror introduces a new perspective into a painting. Bonnard, more interested in ambiguity and suggestion than accuracy, plays around with the mirror image:
- the reflection in the mirror is too far to the right to be a reflection of the real woman standing in the room;
- the angle of the reflected body is not a mirror image of the angle at which the real woman is standing;
- while the real woman is clutching a piece of cloth or a nightshirt below her breast, the woman in the mirror is holding the cloth or shirt to her throat;
- the woman in the room has her left leg stretched slightly forward, while it is the reflected right leg that is in front.
In 1935 Bonnard wrote in a letter to Matisse: ‘I agree with you that the painter’s only solid ground is the palette and colours, but as soon as the colours achieve an illusion, they are no longer judged, and the stupidities begin’ — stupidities, such as worrying about the correctness of a reflection?