By the mid-19th century, the Barbizon painters, of whom Corot was close, no longer deemed it necessary to refer to subject matters from Antiquity in order to justify their interest in nature. In A Morning. The Dance of the Nymph, the curtain of trees isolating the characters at the back has the effect of a theatre curtain and evokes an opera ballet, an ambiguity to which the title contributes, as the word "matinée" may be an allusion to daytime performances, as opposed to "soirées".
The smooth and flaky rendering of the foliage, specific of Corot's work, testify of the artist's interest shifting from the scene to the elements of nature, the atmosphere of the landscape, the nuances of light and its soft vibrations. Nevertheless, the mark of classical tradition remains in Corot's work as much in the survival of mythological subject matters as in the clear distinction between the studies "after nature" and the workshop painting. The landscape may still hold an important place but it remains the background of an imaginary scene: a bacchanal. Lyrical heroism is no longer a dominant value of 19th-century bourgeois society and goddesses are here only to enliven the theatre of nature.
In fact, the painting may result of the association of two distinct memories: that of the gardens of the Villa Farnese in Rome on the one hand, and that of a ballet at the Opéra on the other - hence the ambiguity of the title.