Henner was one of the most successful artists of his day. Originally a pupil of Drolling and Picot, he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1848. In 1858 he won the Prix de Rome and spent the next decade in Italy. There, the works by Coreggio and Giorgione made a deep impression on Henner, who went on to explore the dramatic uses of colour and chiaroscuro.
Although Henner painted a number of naturalistic portraits, he is best known for his depictions women with porcelain-like skin against dark backgrounds. He had a fascination for red-haired muses.In Paris the Jean-Jacques Henner Museum was inaugurated in 1942 and it is dedicated solely to Henner's oeuvre, displaying over 500 paintings and 1000 drawings by the artist. Henner's works also hang in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, among them the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, which owns another portrait of a woman in red.