"Le chat" or The Cat at the Window

Jean-François Milletabout 1857 - 1858

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

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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  • Title: "Le chat" or The Cat at the Window
  • Creator: Jean-François Millet
  • Date: about 1857 - 1858
  • Physical Dimensions: 49.8 x 39.4 cm (19 5/8 x 15 1/2 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Charcoal, black and white chalk with touches of pastel
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Signature: Signed in black chalk in the lower right corner, "J.F. Millet"
  • Object Type: Drawing
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 96.GF.12
  • Inscription: (verso) Lower edge, in black chalk, "Madame Christian Lazard", at the top left on a white paper sticker in ball-point ink "46" and stamped "6710" and at the top right a lavender printed sticker, in blue ball-point under name "M", and under Receipt & Item No. "20079710/14".
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Drawings
  • Culture: French
  • Classification: Drawings