Marguerite Gérard, one of the leading women artists France during the late 1780s, was unofficially apprenticed to her brother-in-law Jean-Honoré Fragonard. She specialized in genre scenes and portraiture, and her paintings represented an idealized view of contemporary bourgeois life in the private sphere occupied by women. Her subjects are wives and mothers, often accompanied by children, servants, or - as in the present portrait - pets, their lives pleasant, domesticated and untroubled. Gérard's style is precise and controlled, demonstrating an attention to surface texture and detail, and she favored a cool, silver-toned palette.
The present painting is a characteristic example of Gérard's mature style. The sitter, an elegant young woman, is dressed in a fashionable gown with her hair carefully curled, a pair of graceful yet modest pearl earrings attesting to her wealth and social status. She is seated at a table upon which a large white cat rests; with its slightly tilted head and direct gaze, it is a charming example of comfortable domesticity, as is its mistress.