Juliette was Gustav Courbet's sister — 12 years younger, a teenager, and in this painting, a distant and intense gaze.
Courbet preferred to paint figures outdoors or with a neutral background. His choice to paint an interior room in great detail is a rarety. In a letter to his parents, Courbet mentioned that he'd submitted this painting to the 1845 Salon jury, under the title "Baroness M" — a hoax to pricking at the jurors who favored work depicting the nobility. While the portrait was refused by the salon, Courbet's subterfuge showed an early penchant for controversy.
Throughout his life, Courbet has the support of his family and especially that of the youngest of four sisters, Juliette. As her family's last surviving heir, Juliette remained unmarried devoting the her life to defending the work of her brother — and donating to French museums the major works that remained in Courbet's workshop. The Petit Palais and received, in 1909, six paintings including portraits of Juliet, Zelie, second sister of the artist and Régis Courbet, their father.