Henri Rouart, Degas' long-time friend and fellow Louis-le-Grand student, is represented here in the interior of his Parisian home.Rouart, a Master Engineer, was also an amateur painter and an exceptional collector. Many of his acquisitions are now housed in the greatest museums, including the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. Degas wished to symbolise this activity in his intimate portrait which depicts Henri Rouart smoking a cigar against a wall covered with paintings.
Degas developed a sudden interest in photography relatively late in his career, practising it with a passion over the brief period between the summers of 1895 and 1896. Unlike his contemporaries who tended to work in natural light, Degas worked exclusively on interior scenes with curtains drawn. As he affirmed often in writing, he sought chiaroscuro effects and indirect lightning,. Here, only the face and hands of the model stand out of the shadows.