Le chat (The Cat at the Window)
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Jean-François Millet
French, about 1857 - 1858
Black and white chalk with occasional touches of colored pastel
19 5/8 x 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.

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