This work served as a study for Renoir's painting, Gabrielle, Jean and a girl, 1895, (Private collection, New York). In this drawing, Renoir depicts his second son Jean, an older, unidentified child and Jean’s nurse, Gabrielle Renard. Gabrielle, a distant cousin of Renoir’s wife, Aline, came to help with the household in 1894, remaining with the family for almost twenty years. She became Renoir’s most frequent model.
Renoir produced numerous related drawings for his compositions, particularly when he needed to work out the proper grouping of his figures. Jean recalled that Renoir only rarely asked him to sit quite still, so that he could capture a particular detail. This, together with the predatory studies, suggests that that overall arrangement of the finished painting was the result of careful compositional planning rather than simply the direct depiction of a posing group.
The focus of this composition is an apparently fleeting moment, as Jean reaches for the apple, but the figures are locked into a smooth sequence of relationships: all three figures are fitted within a semicircle, and Jean is protected by Gabrielle- only his hand reaches beyond her encompassing presence. These subtle gestures convey the relationship between the two figures.