Like many of the most notable 18th-century French painters, Boilly came from a family of skilled artisans; his father Arnould Boilly (1764-79) was a Douai wood-carver. After spending some time in Arras in order to receive instruction from the trompe-l'oeil specialist Dominique Doncre (1743-1820), Boilly moved to Paris in 1785. His early work in the years circa 1790-1800 was characterised by an output of moralising, amorous and sentimental subjects that catered to a taste established by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) and Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Boilly was condemned by the Comité du Salut Public in 1794, at the height of the Revolutionary Terror, for painting subjects 'of an obscenity repugnant to Republican morals'. Thereafter he turned increasingly to painting history, urban and rural genre scenes, as well as to portraiture, of which the present work is a particularly fine example.