A maid puts the finishing touches on her mistress's hair while two women lean in to listen breathlessly to what she is saying. Partially disguised and holding masks, they wear lavish cloaks in anticipation of the evening festivities ahead. Candles flicker, illuminating the eager faces of the group and contributing to the mood of hushed expectancy.
Jean-Francois de Troy developed the tableaux de mode, depictions of scenes from upper-class life with an emphasis on sumptuous costumes, opulent interiors, and hints of amorous intrigue. At the time, some critics disapproved of the aristocratic life of leisure celebrated by paintings like this one. Before the Ball was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1737 with its companion piece, After the Ball. When exhibited, the pair was declared De Troy's finest work.