The picture, which was shown at the IV Exhibition of Impressionist Artists (1879), is the Museum's only work in oils by Degas.
In the winter twilight, in a cold, half-empty studio, a young dancer from the corps de ballet seeks in front of a mirror a more impressive pose for the camera. Extracted from the pattern of the dance, suddenly halted and highlighted, her movements are surprisingly inhibited and unnatural. The artist's keen eye notes the characteristic poses and movements not intended for the casual observer. His inside knowledge of exhausting monotonous days in the ballet world enables him to reproduce the impression of being 'caught unawares'. The view of snow-covered Paris through the window reinforces the ballerina's isolation. Degas succeeds brilliantly in conveying air and light in Paris in the early hours of the morning.