Between 1764 and 1790 the Panthéon was built in Paris. The building was initially designed as a church, dedicated to Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of the city. From 1874 twelve artists, including Puvis de Chavannes, were involved in the decoration of the Panthéon. This painting is an oil study for the murals, many metres high, on the theme of Geneviève’s childhood, which the artist produced around 1874-1878.
The young Geneviève kneels in prayer in an Arcadian landscape dotted with sheep. She is watched by several Gauls, who would later become her protégés. Puvis declared that he wanted to represent various layers in reality: the almost supernatural appearance of Geneviève offset by the peasants staring with amazement.