"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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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.


Ernest May

June 4, 1890

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


Madame Christian Lazard

June 13, 1980

Hôtel Drouot, lot 30

May 24, 1995

Sotheby's (New York), lot 46


Private Dealer

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