A photographer, journalist, critic and caricaturist, Nadar had published a caricature of Jean-François Millet on the 24 July 1852 in Le Journal pour rire, representing him as a painter-peasant, wearing clogs and holding a shovel, a spade and his palette. A gently mocking text accompanied the drawing: "A naive and melancholic talent like the natural world that he so faithfully and fervently depicts, Millet likes haymakers, basket makers, grape pickers, and harvesters; he enjoys working in the fields, taking sheaves of corn up into the granary, he keeps an eye on the wash-house and the wine press, and has a quick look in the cowshed before going to help with the churning in the dairy".
A few years later, Nadar took this terribly serious photograph of Millet. Standing here in his city clothes, Millet is the image of a solid, almost severe, imposing figure. This image corresponds well with what his friends said about him: "He was above average height, stout, with a thick-set neck and farmer's hands. His brown hair, brushed back, revealed a refined and determined forehead, given expression through his frown and his half-closed, very dark blue eyes. [...] His reserved manner matched his measured and somewhat pedantic conversation (Philippe Burty, Maîtres et petits-maîtres, 1877).
It seemed as if there were two Millets - the Parisian, wanting to convey an image of responsibility and seriousness, and the Barbizon Millet, wishing to appear close to the peasants. These two facets of the artist were equally admired by Nadar.