Jacques-Emile Blanche was the most sought-after painter in artistic, intellectual and bourgeois circles at the end of the 19th century. In 1903 he produced this intimate portrait of three members of the Halévy family, probably in a room of their house in Sucy-en-Brie.
Louise Halévy (1847-1930), sitting on the right, was the wife of the writer Ludovic Halévy, the most famous member of the family, absent from this scene. As in the photographs taken by his friend Edgar Degas in 1895, Louise's face has a kind, if slightly disillusioned, expression.
Her elder son, Elie Halevy (1870-1937), stands in the background of the painting. A philosopher, a specialist in English history and Socialism, he was also co-founder of the Revue de métaphysique et de morale. In contrast to the somewhat brown and ochre colours of the décor, his blue eyes find an echo in the tones of the Chinese vases on the right, and even in the upholstery of the armchairs. His wife Florence is seated in front of him, her shawl draped in an almost Mannerist pose, as she reaches towards her mother in law's needlework. This petit point tapestry is decorated with motifs like those on the armchairs, repeating the colours and shapes.
The accumulation of objects reflects the traditional décor of a bourgeois sitting room, where characters and furniture are closely linked. This portrait is in the style of the English conversation piece in which various figures were represented sharing common activities "in a familiar situation".