Manet’s Boy Carrying a Tray (1860-61)

Léon Leenhof, Manet's young son, is posed in this print as though he is selecting paint from his tray (palette) and is about to apply it to the sheet of paper we are looking at. 

This drawing of Manet's natural or adopted son, Léon Leenhof, uses a pose often seen in a studio. Indeed anyone who has seen an artist at work should recognize the accuracy of Manet’s observation. The pose is originally based on one Titian had used in a painting long thought to have been modeled by his daughter.1 She too stands like an artist. Thus, just as Léon represents Manet and Titian's daughter represents Titian, so Léon by inference must also represent the Renaissance master because form carries meaning.

Captions for image(s) above:

Manet, Boy Carrying a Tray (1860-61) Watercolor and gouache over graphite on paper. Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Click image to enlarge.

In support, Léon's figure appears later in the dark background of Manet’s Balcony. It is so dark that the figure is barely visible. Nevertheless, his son “paints” the scene in front of him, just as he does in Boy Carrying a Tray

Captions for image(s) above:

Manet, The Balcony (1867-8)

Click image to enlarge.

Think of Picasso on film famously painting from the other side of a piece of glass or in a photograph with a flashlight. Léon is in the dark background of The Balcony, not only to represent the depth of the artist’s mind, but for the same reason that the foreground of Manet’s sketch known as Interior at Arachon is dark. The boy is on a different level of reality than the trio in the foreground. As in Boy Carrying A Tray, he is painting the larger figures from behind. 

Captions for image(s) above:

Gjon Mili, Picasso painting with a Flashlight (1949)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

1. Fried, Manet’s Modernism, Chicago, 1992, pp. 145-6

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.