In addition to his depictions of light-hearted scenes and whimsical characters, Fragonard was also famous for his charming, touching portrayals of families. L’Heureuse Famille immediately met with great acclaim among connoisseurs of his work.
Fragonard had originally painted the work on canvas in a version that is now held at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. An engraving of this painting subsequently contributed in large part to its success, which most likely encouraged Fragonard to recreate L’Heureuse Famille in watercolour. At the centre of this oval composition, a mother embraces her child in a spontaneous display of maternal love. Another child affectionately cuddles a dog, while a third feeds hay to a donkey that is peering in through the window. This vision of a simple but happy household drew from 17th century Dutch art, which was a major source of inspiration for Fragonard's work. At the same time, the frieze-like layout, monumentality of the figures and severe classical architecture reflect French artists' growing obsession with classical culture.