Born in 1854 in Gavernac, a small hamlet in the département of Aveyron, Denys Pierre Puech began his career as an artist at sixteen when he apprenticed for two years with a marble mason in the nearby town of Rodez. In 1872, he moved to Paris and attended evening classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, whilst assisting in the studios of various established sculptors during the day. His training continued under Jouffroy, Falguière and Chapu, and after twice being awarded second prize (in 1881 and 1883), in 1884 he finally won the much-coveted Prix de Rome for the work Mézence blessé. The prize, and its associated grant, allowed Puech to study at the Villa Medici in Rome, to where, some 35 years later, he would return as its Director. More importantly, however, the Prix de Rome signalled the start of his official career as a sculptor, from which point he began to receive frequent commissions from the French state. The first of these was his allegorical work La Seine, executed in 1885 and acquired for the Musée du Luxembourg. Enormously popular with critics and the public alike, Puech was appointed a committee member for the Salon des Artistes Français, and received at first the Chevalier (1892) and later the cross of commandeur (1908) of the Légion d'Honneur. In 1905 he was elected to the Institut as its youngest member, and in 1910, at his instigation, the Musée Denys Puech devoted to art from the Aveyron region was inaugurated.
In 1888, Puech modelled and exhibited his plaster version of Muse d'André Chenier (Salon, no. 4554). The state commissioned a marble version of the work, which was exhibited the following year (no. 4839) and subsequently installed in the Musée du Luxembourg. André Chenier was a well-known royalist poet guillotined in the final days of Robespierre's reign of terror. It was during the 141 days he spent incarcerated in the St Lazare prison prior to his execution that Chenier met Anne Françoise-Aimée de Franquetot de Coigny, the woman who became his muse, and whom, perhaps, Puech has depicted cradling the poet's severed head in his Salon model. A marble replica of the latter was executed in 1896 and is now in the Musée d'Orléans. Puech also carved a version with a naturalistic rocky base, now in the Musée Denys Puech, Rodez. A marble half-size reduction of the latter was exhibited at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, and an example dated 1902 was sold Christie's London, 16 June 1994, lot 378.
Also dating from 1888, the present marble is an apparently unrecorded adaptation of Puech's original Salon version of Muse d'André Chenier, identical in every way, but for the substitution of the poet's head with a basket containing a kitten. In the absence of any documentation, it seems reasonable to assume that an individual who may have admired the nude in the plaster version of Muse d'André Chenier, either at the Salon, or beforehand whilst still in Puech's studio, subsequently commissioned the sculptor to execute this less grisly alternative.