Léon Mestayer was an important figure on the Nantes scene: a member of the Museum board, he was a visitor to Blanche-Couronne Abbey, owned by the painter Auguste Toulmouche and a meeting place for artists and poets. This very sober work places its seated subject on a black ground, only the crossed legs suggesting a (somewhat affected) nonchalance.
The hands, in particular, are an unqualified success: this difficult exercise was one Delaunay enjoyed and for which he was much praised by the critics. The subject's gaze, at once serious and benevolent, seems directed at the painter with a mix of friendship and expertise: the eye of the connoisseur. Here, fifteen years after the portrait of Madame Mestayer, the artist offers a subtle companion piece, skilfully adapting his approach to the psychology of the new sitter.
There exists an earlier version of this portrait (1876), which remains in the possession of the subject's family.