From the 1860s, Degas regularly used to spend his summers in Normandy at Ménil-Hubert (Orne Department), on the country estate of his childhood friend Paul Valpinçon. There, he would paint portraits of family members, and also produce views of interiors, including this one of a billiard room.
On 27 August 1892, Degas wrote to his friend, the sculptor Bartholomé, saying that yet again he had to postpone his return to Paris because he had just started another painting: "I wanted to paint, and I decided to try billiard rooms. I thought I knew a bit about perspective, I knew nothing about it, and thought I could replace it through a process of perpendiculars and horizontals, by trying hard to calculate the angles in the spaces. I really worked at it".
This painting from the Musée d'Orsay is a sketch for a more complete composition currently in the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. These works are rare examples of Degas as a painter of interiors.