Virginie Monnier will include this drawing, which is listed in the artist's archives as N.D959, in the forthcoming Balthus catalogue raisonn to be published by Editions Gallimard, Paris.
During the three years following his first exhibition in Paris at the Galerie Pierre in 1934, Balthus painted portraits exclusively, which became his only source of income. He portrayed the artists Mir and Derain, and other figures in the art and theater milieu, as well as people in the upper class circle in which he moved. The present drawing is a study related to Balthus's portrait of Madame Georges Hilaire, wife of the sous-prfet of Pontoise, painted in 1935. Madame Hilaire is shown holding a small book; the chair and fireplace behind her are the only furnishings in the stark room, and are employed in the painting as well.
Balthus took a mannerist approach to his portraiture during this period, introducing subtle distortions into the sitter's figure. Madame Hilaire's head is slightly too large for her small upper body, a trait that she shares with other portraits of the period and Balthus's contemporaneous series of illustrations for Emily Bront's Wuthering Heights, eight of which were published in the magazine Minotaure in 1935. This effect, together with the spareness of the sitter's surroundings, lend a refined and classical feeling to the characterization of his subject.