The son of Johann Georg Wille, a German engraver in service to the French king, Pierre-Alexandre was first apprenticed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze, known for domestic and moralizing subjects, in 1761. Wille, after studying Neoclassicism, returned to the informality of Greuze's painting style. He was made eligible for the French Royal Academy in 1774 and exhibited at Salons until 1819. He never became a full member.
Influenced by Greuze, this engaging depiction is closely related to known paintings by Pierre-Alexandre Wille. The young boy's cascading hair and rumpled costume are those often used in scenes of daily life. This intersection of genre and portraiture is typical of the increasing informality often found in French 18th-century painting, which coexisted with the most disciplined academic styles.