June 4, 1890
Commissaire-Priseur Chevallier, Paris, lot 85, Experts Galerie Georges Petit and Féral
June 13, 1980
Hôtel Drouot, lot 30
May 24, 1995
Sotheby's (New York), lot 46
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"Le chat" or The Cat at the Window
Jean-François Millet (French, 1814 - 1875)
Conté crayon and pastel with stumping and blending, fixed on wove paper
49.8 × 39.4 cm (19 5/8 × 15 1/2 in.)
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.