The backdrop in which they are standing is dimly lit room, richly furnished and with a gentle light creating vibrantly colorful visual contrasts.
The mother is holding a conch shell to her daughter's ear while the little girl appears to be listening intently for sounds from the sea.
William Bouguereau's gifts as an artist are made apparent simply by viewing his vast catalogue of known paintings, of which 822 completed works are known to exist, with a possibility of more undiscovered.
While he painted a variety of different thematic scenarios, much of his work focused on interactions between two subjects, either grouped within his paintings or as a singular point of focus.
Visually, his works are undeniably stunning. In The Shell, both female figures are incredibly pretty in their delicate stance, with an almost tangible tenderness that suggest a mother and daughter relationship.
They are completely oblivious to their own exquisite beauty, so intent are they in hearing the ocean.
So many of Bouguereau's paintings convey that same caliber of breathtaking innocence, that is interpreted as almost a type of divinity. This quality of divinity is present in so very many of his other paintings such as Les Murmures De L'amour, Charity, La Frileuse, A Young Girl Defending Herself and many, many others.
In the painting The Shell the most remarkable aspects are the tentative juxtapositions of facial expressions and postures, as well as the softly diffused radiance from the light source, perhaps a large window to their front left side.
His paintings are positively stunning and bring to mind those Michelangelo and Raphael of Early Rennaissance period, the masters whom he admired.
William Bouguereau infused his innate sense of the divine upon us mere mortals in all his works, whether religious or everyday, childlike activities such as catching frogs or crabs. His work is every bit as opulent today as it was in the early twentieth century, perhaps more.