Manet’s Angelina (1865)

One of the many ways artists "paint themselves" is to paint others as earlier great masters. Since Manet not only admired Watteau's work but identified with him too, any portrait of Manet's contemporaries in the guise of Watteau becomes a "portrait of the artist", ie. Manet. Thus, in this painting of a woman dressed in Spanish clothing (below right) Manet has taken Francois Boucher's Portrait of Watteau (below left) and turned it into a portrait of someone he knew. Whether or not Angelina actually had these features, Manet has portrayed her with Watteau's thickly arched eyebrows, his sharply pointed nose with a large nostril and his full, wavy lips.

Manet must also have noticed that by placing the brush Watteau holds close to the edge of the frame, Boucher implies that Watteau may have drawn the calligraphic sign below. Manet has in turn transformed the curlicues of “Watteau’s calligraphy” into the design of the ornate balcony. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

L: After Boucher's Portrait of Watteau  
R: Manet, Angelina (1865) Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris 

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Note how Manet used a flattened "W" (for Watteau) in the design of the balcony which from Angelina’s perspective above becomes an “M” for Manet. Manet's M and Watteau's W are interchangeable as the masculine-looking Angelina as Watteau/Manet becomes the androgynous muse in his mind.

Now consider her right arm, bent holding a fan. It is easy to imagine that, with her thumb extended, her hand might actually be holding a palette.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Manet's Angelina

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Lastly, so as to leave no doubt that Manet thought of the great masters as one long continuum of which he was now a part, Manet added the transparent curtain angled up the right-hand side of the image, and covering a window. It is a metaphor for the Spanish-looking Angelina's "canvas", just as the real canvas of the Spaniard Velazquez in Las Meninas is inclined up the edge of the painting as well. Here though, reflected in Manet's mind, the edge of the "canvas" is on the opposite side.

Captions for image(s) above:

Manet, Angelina (l.); Velazquez, Detail of Las Meninas (r.)

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 20 Apr 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.