In the crook of her right arm, Madame Moitessier supports a loose, lacy shawl that twines around her. Her brooch attracts attention while the tiny necklace nearly disappears. In Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres's later painting, a smaller brooch seems insignificant, while a long string of pearls echoes the flowing sweep of the woman's shawl and provides a purpose for the hand at her waist. He made two additional studies of her left hand in the upper right corner, exploring how she might hold the shawl.
In this preparatory study for an 1851 painting, Ingres concentrated on the woman's dress, her jewels, and the positions of her arms and hands. To determine the figure's proportions, he drew a grid or "squared" the drawing. He freely worked out new ideas from the bodice on down, probably tracing the head and shoulders from another study. Ingres made many such preparatory sketches for his four painted portraits of Inès Moitessier, a banker's wife from a prominent family of government officials.