The J. Paul Getty Museum

"Le chat" or The Cat at the Window

Object Details


"Le chat" or The Cat at the Window


Jean-François Millet (French, 1814 - 1875)




about 1857–1858


Conté crayon and pastel with stumping and blending, fixed on wove paper

Object Number:



49.8 × 39.4 cm (19 5/8 × 15 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

Moonlight shines through an open window, illuminating a bedroom. A black cat with glowing eyes enters and looks toward a startled man who pokes his head through the bed curtains. His shoes lie on the floor in front of the bed, and his clothes are on a chair where he left them.

This drawing illustrates "The Cat Who Became a Woman," a fable by the seventeenth-century French writer Jean de La Fontaine. According to the story, a man becomes infatuated with his cat and convinces Destiny to change her into a woman. He marries her, but on their first night together she springs from the marriage bed to chase a mouse across the bedroom floor. The fable's moral is "The truth will out": no matter how much one's outward appearance changes, one's essential character remains.

In a wealth of tones hidden in deep shadows, Jean-François Millet evoked the story's haunting mystery.

June 4, 1890

Commissaire-Priseur Chevallier, Paris, lot 85, Experts Galerie Georges Petit and Féral

June 13, 1980
May 24, 1995
Peintures, aquarelles, pastels, dessins rehaussés, croquis et eaux-fortes de J.-F. Millet (1887)
  • École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris), 1887
Master Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (December 16, 1997 to February 22, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to February 22, 1998
Defining Modernity: European Drawings 1800-1900 (June 5 to September 9, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 5 to September 9, 2007
Noir: The Romance of Black in 19th Century French Drawings and Prints (February 9 to May 15, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 9 to May 15, 2016