Marguerite Gérard was the sister-in-law and a student of the famous Fragonard, who specialised in painting small portraits. Her simple, intimate works offer a striking portrayal of French society shortly before the Revolution.
The full-length format frequently used by the artist allows her not only to give the model greater stature, but also to portray him in a natural, relaxed attitude. The man's elegant attire contrasts somewhat with his austere surroundings, which are furnished only with a three-legged stand, while the architectural drawings reflect his status. The man depicted is Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, one of France's greatest architects in the late 18th century. Marguerite Gérard depicted him with plans for the Paris tollgates, a series of buildings constructed around the French capital where taxes were paid.