Piat-Joseph Sauvage is regarded as a master of trompe l’oeil and this picture is a particularly fine example of his talent. It is possible that the present work was intended to be hung without a frame, due to the inclusion of a false loop at the upper center of the picture. The composition is based on a relief by François Duquesnoy, which is known in both marble and bronze examples, including works at the Palazzo Doria Phalpilij, Rome; the Petit Palais, Paris; and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (fig. 1). Duquesnoy was in turn inspired by Roman sarcophagi, possibly even a specific object that was at the time in the Giustiniani collection in Rome.
The same sculpture features in works by Chardin, Boilly, Dou, and Sweerts, among others, and clearly enjoyed enormous popularity due to its charming and inventive imagery. Piat Sauvage's trompe l'oeil painted rendition of the sculpture certainly impressed many contemporary artists in its own right, and is known in several versions and copies, including that gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by J. Pierpont Morgan (inv. 07.225.257)