Artist: Mary Cassatt (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1844–1926 Le Mesnil-Théribus, Oise)
Date: ca. 1908–9
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 32 7/8 x 27 1/8 in. (83.5 x 68.9 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of Gioconda King, 2004
Accession Number: 2005.129
Holding a hand mirror backed with green moiré, a pretty auburn-haired young woman—apparently a professional model that Mary Cassatt painted several times—studies her coiffure in a dressing table mirror. Although Cassatt portrayed a commonplace moment in daily life, she implied the broader theme of female vanity by emphasizing the play of reflections.
Many of Cassatt's late works signal her declining artistic skills (she stopped painting in 1914 because of failing eyesight). Yet Denise at Her Dressing Table shows her to have been in command of composition and the handling of paint as late as 1908–9. The model's head and face are especially appealing, and there are ravishing chromatic passages, notably in the soft pink-lavender dressing gown. The unfinished upper right corner reveals the gray ground and Cassatt's rapid brushwork.