This picture Degas wrote during a trip to his relatives in New Orleans. The plot chosen by him for his canvas – a business office – before all the artists carefully avoided it.
Exact portraits of the characters are beautifully inscribed by Degas in the atmosphere of the business environment, and in general the picture is a living sketch of everyday life, echoing more closely the novels of Emile Zola than with most works of contemporary Degas painters. New Orleans was at that time the fourth largest city in the United States, and as a seaport competed with the main port of the country, New York.
The basis of the prosperity of the city was the trade in cotton. Degas wrote to his friend: “One cotton. Everyone lives here only with cotton and for the sake of cotton.” In the foreground of the picture is Uncle Degas, Michel Musson, a broker of the cotton exchange; the brother of the artist, Rene de Ga, is depicted reading a newspaper, and his other brother, Achilles de Ga, leaned against the partition in the background on the left. Rene and Achilles were engaged in importing wine to New Orleans, and Degas was proud of their successes. Here they went to the uncle’s office, they just peeked for a while and so sit back, while everyone else is busy with work.
Although the work gives the impression of spontaneity, her composition was thought out as carefully as on all Degas paintings. For example, the black-clad figures are arranged so that they stand out clearly in the background and seem to come out of the picture.