The work is a portrait of Renoir's older brother, Pierre Henri Renoir (1830 - 1903) but was painted as alongside another portrait. This other painting was one of Pierre's wife, Blanche-Marie Blanc (1841–1910).
The setting is a luxuriously decorated Parisian parlour, and while it's unknown whether this was their home, the upper class bourgeois status of the pair indicates that they likely lived in a similar setting.
If set next together, the muses gaze across at each other in a common style known as 'en regard' displaying how Pierre Henri gazes to his right whereas Blanche-Marie looks over to her left.
The light brushwork effectively breath life into the elder Renoir's impression. During this period, Renoir did not use his family as figures for portraits often. This is rather surprising considering how they became far more commonplace in his later work and life.
Both brothers can be considered artistically gifted as Pierre Henri worked as a silversmith so the watch on his person can be assumed to be one of his own works. Additionally, he encouraged his younger brother (along with his father) to pursue drawing and painting as a passion.
The Renoir family are well known in the world of culture, film and cinema in particular. Pierre-Auguste's sons were Pierre Renoir (1885–1952) a noted actor most well known as the first person to portray the famous Inspector Jules Maigret, and Jean Renoir (1894–1979) an Academy Award winning director, producer and writer. Renoir's grandson, Claude Renoir (1913–1993) was a cinematographer.
The painting is recognised as an example of the Realism period of art. Born in the 1850s in France (somewhat similar to Renoir in those aspects), the movement looked to portray life as honestly and accurately as possible.
This was a far departure from the Romanticist movement that had dominated French culture and art since the end of the 18th century (See Turner and Delacroix), and depicted the past in glorious images and burst with emotional expression. Gustave Courbet is often considered the father and leader of Realism with famous works such as 'Bonjour Monsieur Courbet' from 1854 and 'Le Sommeil' from 1866.
Many attribute the rise in Realism to the Industrial Revolution that swept Europe in the same era as well as the development of the camera and photography in general which lead to the desire for photo realistic imagery.