Originally titled Seated Woman and subsequently renamed by one of its nineteenth-century owners, the Valpicon Bather was painted by the French Neo-classical painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingress in 1808. During that time, he was studying at the French Academy in Rome and it was one of the three paintings Ingres was required to submit for adjudication to Paris, as a student at the French Academy in Rome.
However, it could not impress the critics, due to the odd choice of subject for a student at the Academy. Nevertheless, around fifty years later, when the artist's reputation was well established, the work was described as a masterpiece of harmonious lines and delicate light. It was also remarked that even Rembrandt would have envied the amber colour of her pale torso.
Valpinçon Bather is one of the earliest paintings of Ingress that reflects the influence Italy had on him. Basically, it simply depicts a nude female with her back turned to the viewer in a domestic scene, but it captures the artist’s style of allowing women to be portrayed with a little extra weight, as a more realistic depiction of the beautiful female body, which was not preferred in the early 19th century.
She has what Baudelaire termed as a deep voluptuousness, wearing a simple wrap around her hair and a plain duvet placed over her midriff, with a red sandal lying forgotten by her side. She is the sole subject of the work and is framed by the stunning tapestries that highlight the arching curve of her back, adding a touch of class to elements of the background, while there is no mythological reference serving as the pretext or an excuse for her nakedness. She simply sits on a comfortable bed, with a dark green curtain framing the composition to the right, along with the mystery of the model, whose face cannot be seen. She presents a calm and measured sensuality, but lacks overt sexuality. The use of light colours, except the dark curtain, helped to bring out the lightness and softness of the nude woman, exposing her flawless back.
Ingress completed the Valpinçon Bather in 1808 and depicted the identical figure in the same pose in his Turkish Bath (1862), where the central figure in the foreground playing a mandolin presented the model of the Valpinçon Bather in the same tone.