Millet was anxious to perfect the art of portraiture, in order to earn a better living and chose the members of his family as his first models. In November 1841 he married Pauline Ono, the daughter of a tailor from Cherbourg. He completed several beautiful portraits, which remained in the family for a long time before they were bequeathed to the Musée de Cherbourg. The Musée d'Orsay has no portraits of Pauline, who died in Paris on the 21 April 1844, but in 1907 the Musée du Louvre bought the portrait of Madame Lecourtois, Pauline's sister.
She looks a little awkward in this picture, as if intimidated. She is wearing beautiful clothes. The position of her arm evokes the more classical portraits in French art, but she is stripped of any worldly elegance. Was Millet attracted by this young woman's simplicity and gentleness, attributes that give the painting such character?
Certain critics see in Millet's portraits of the modest, rather narrow, provincial bourgeoisie, the first indication of his lifelong attraction to the most modest and humble people.