A woman in hat and half-length jacket stands in bright sunlight in front of a wall. She stands at a slight angle to the viewer, holding a garment in her left hand and possibly a chain in her right hand; she looks up and to the right of the viewer. A dark shadow cast by her body against the wall partly obscures her left side.
La Mere Gérard was a flower-seller outside of the Bal bullier in Paris who was nearly blind and was considered mentally unstable. She was the subject of several early paintings as well as two etchings by Whistler and this depiction, while sharing formal conventions with popular illustration by artists such as Paul Gavarni, is full of close observation and sympathy that prevents the work from falling into stereotype.
A young woman is seated in bright sunlight on a step or stoop, leaning slightly forward. The light source is to the right, causing deep shadows to fall on the right side of her face. Her arms are folded over the dark fabric in her lap and she holds a cigarette in her right hand.
During Whistler's years as a student in Paris, he lived a bohemian life on the Left Bank with Eloise (also described as Heloise), a seamstress with a volatile temper, nicknamed "the tigress".