Manet’s Young Lady of 1866 (1866)

In this 1866 painting Manet's now-famous model holds some violets, flowers which even in French are one of the few flowers named after a color.1 Remembering that every painter paints himself, we can assume then that Manet's model is "the artist". What is she doing? 

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

Manet, Young Lady of 1866 (1866) Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Click image to enlarge.

Once again, as in other paintings by Manet of his son and of smokers, she is about to use her violets to apply paint to the surface we are looking at. 

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Manet's Young Lady 

Click image to enlarge.

If you compare her gesture to Dürer's face and hand in a late fifteenth-century self-portrait, the implication of her gesture becomes clear. Even Dürer's hand, five centuries earlier, must be seen as holding the invisible implement that made the drawing. The tradition of posing a figure like a painter at work is a long one and almost entirely unrecognized by art historians.

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

Durer, Self-portrait at Age 22 (c. 1493)

Click image to enlarge.

The monocle in the other hand of Manet’s artist/model, then a male accessory, has troubled some interpreters. However, it was probably used by artists to inspect their paintings and, even if not, it still indicates that underneath the young lady’s female form is the persona of a male artist for whom vision was all-important.

The final proof is her nightgown, then an inappropriate form of dress in a full-length portrait. Scholars have puzzled over it for years without finding the answer. In both French and English, this item of clothing is known as a peignoir, a visual pun by Manet on peigner, the French verb to paint. Manet’s Young Lady of 1866 is a painter.

Captions for image(s) above:

Manet, Young Lady of 1866

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

1. Manet’s model, Victorine Meurend, had already appeared in some of Manet’s most famous and controversial paintings, including Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, Olympia and Mlle. V in the Costume of an Espada. She was widely recognizable as a professional model.

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.