Everything is in motion. The only calming elements in this disorderly setting are the two players at the back of the room. They appear to be eerily bodiless and lifeless in comparison with the objects around them. The interior, seemingly idyllic at first, turns out to have an underlying threatening quality: the colour of the objects extends beyond their outlines, the floor is curling, the walls seem to reach inwards and the chairs seem to be moving of their own accord. Vuillard considered the threat emanating from within a home a central topic of his art.
Mathilde Rathenau (1845-1926), née Nachmann, came from a prosperous Frankfurt banking family. In 1924 she informed the Städel that she wanted to donate a number of paintings that had belonged to her son Wather Rathenau (1867-1922) to the museum in his memory. Rathenau was Germany's foreign minister at the time of his assassination by the Organisation Consul in Berlin-Grunewald on 24 June 1922. He was born in Berlin in 1867, the son of the Jewish businessman Emil Rathenau, the subsequent founder of AEG, and his wife, Mathilde. He studied philosophy, physics and chemistry in Berlin and Strasbourg. The industrialist, writer and co-founder of the German Democratic Party was appointed foreign minister on 31 January 1922. The donation was not effected until after the death of his mother in 1926. Among the paintings, in addition to works by Fernand Khnopff, Max Liebermann and this work by Édouard Vuillard, was a self-portrait by Walther Rathenau, which was confiscated in 1937 as "degenerate art".