The dreamily romantic and physically frail Alphonse Daudet sat for Nadar in the early 1860s, soon after beginning his career as a poet, playwright, and writer of fiction. In Nadar's portrait, Daudet directed his intense gaze to some farther part of the studio. His pose seems wholly unassuming, his right hand toying with the chair fringe.
The apparent informality of the pose was not accidental but the result of Nadar's intention to show the modesty of a very young poet of amiable temperament and humble demeanor. Nadar arranged the light so it would fall from the upper left, crisply delineating the smooth lines of Daudet's forehead and cheek and so illuminating his hair as to turn its color from black to brown.