"The success of art is the face" declared Cézanne confidently to the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. On many occasions during his adult life, the painter inflicted long sittings on his partner Hortense Fiquet, who became his wife in 1886. This painting has an overall quality of simplicity. The décor is barely suggested in coloured tones from brown-green to sky blue. The face, seen frontally, is an almost perfect oval.
This simplification of shapes heralded the art of the 20th century. The next logical development after this elegant, smooth and delicate portrait could only be a woman's head by Brancusi. The magnificent, subtle nuances of the colours of the face and of the surroundings are complemented by the purity of the lines. Hortense fills the space in complete tranquility: an atmosphere of the serenity of life radiates from the portrait. Matisse, who owned the painting, praised these qualities in it, saying he wanted to endow his own work with a magnificent stillness.