The day prior to making this exposure, Kertész visited the studio of a Swiss sculptor. While in the atelier, the artist's black cat lept onto the sculpture's pedestal, and recognizing a potentially dramatic composition, Kertész returned the next day with camera, plates and a magnesium flash. He waited for the cat to take position again and released the shutter. The result is a subtle study of contrast between the sculpted head, statically planted upon its base and the feline, frozen in motion.
The image of the black cat in graphic arts was familiar to Parisians for years before Kertész arrived in Paris. It is likely he was aware of this through his contacts at Café du Dôme. Made immensely popular affiches, the black cat became symbolic of an era mostly through the work of designer Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923). Steinlen was commissioned by the cabaret, Tournée du Chat Noir de Rodolphe Salis. Salis was the proprietor of this staple of Montmartre nightlife until his death in 1897. Whether Kertész was actually conscious of this or not is unknown, however, the cat's surprised and defensive expression and the circular motif of the sculpted head in profile recalls Steinlen's poster. It is tempting to believe that prior to his arrival in Paris, Kertész came across the Steinlen broadside, adding to the City of Light's allure for him.
Another print on carte postale and mounted to vellum is in the collection of Harriet and Noel Levine, New York.