Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (c. 1715 – 1783, French) is known as one of the most accomplished artists of the 18th century, especially in the use of pastels. Born in Paris, Perronneau began as an engraver and studied under Laurent Cars. In the 1740’s, he created his first portraits in oils and then pastels. In 1746, he exhibited his first pastel portrait at the Paris Salon and became a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1753. Perronneau traveled widely to fulfill requests for portraits dying in Amsterdam virtual unknown.
He painted only three works with cats, all portraits of women. In Girl with a Kitten, 1745, the girl is artificially posed and the inclusion of the kitten is a symbol of uncontrollable nature pitted against the innocence of childhood.
In the portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, 1747, we see Mme. Pinceploup staring off into the distance in a regal manner. She is obviously from the upper classes, as her dress is accented by flowers, ribbons, and pearls. Mme. Pinceloup seems not to be at ease, as she is sitting straight up with her back away from the chair back. She is holding a large gray cat, probably a Chartreux, a French breed, included to bring attention to Mme. Pinceloup’s sophistication. The bells around the cat’s neck reflect the pearls around Mme. Pinceloup’s, equating the cat to the woman, bringing to the forefront the eternal bond between women and cats.