EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
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EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)

Jeune femme au chapeau blanc

Details
EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
Jeune femme au chapeau blanc
signed 'Manet' (lower right)
pastel on paper laid down on board
Sheet: 20 3/8 x 14 7/8 in. (51.8 x 37.8 cm.)
Executed in 1882
Provenance
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris.
Théodore Haviland, Limoges (acquired from the above, 21 April 1890).
Mme Jean d'Albis, Limoges (by 1932).
Private collection, France (by 1975).
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 6 February 2002.
Literature
P. Jarrot, G. Wildenstein and M. Bataille, Manet, Paris, 1932, vol. I, p. 182, no. 521 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 220, fig. 484).
A. Tabarant, Manet et ses œuvres, Paris, 1947, p. 431, no. 517 (illustrated, p. 619; with incorrect dimensions).
D. Rouart and D. Wildenstein, Edouard Manet: Catalogue raisonné, pastels, aquarelles et dessins, Lausanne, 1975, vol. II, p. 32, no. 83 (illustrated, p. 33; with incorrect dimensions).
D. Rouart and S. Orienti, Edouard Manet, Paris, 1978, p. 117, no. 375.
Special notice

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of 20th Century Evening Sale, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art

Lot Essay

In 1880, an anonymous art critic writing in La république française declared that Edouard Manet had begun to show himself “in an entirely new light as a painter of fashionable women” (“Lettres, sciences, beaux-arts,” La république française, 11 April, 1880, p. 3). Manet had long been fascinated by the material attributes of modern dress: elegant hats, veils, gloves, fans, parasols, pocket watches, ruffs and slippers appear throughout his oeuvre. Manet’s Jeune femme au chapeau blanc, executed in 1882, is a particularly elegant example of the artist’s fascination with contemporary society, as well as his virtuosic technique in the medium of pastel.
Jeune femme au chapeau blanc features a bust-length elegant, dark-haired woman with sculpted cheeks and a delicate, pointed chin, her eyes downcast in a modest expression. She is outfitted in a fabulous white winter ensemble: silk hat, festooned with tufts of gossamer white fabric and a large velvet bow, and a matching white cape. As is true of many bust-length “portraits” that Manet painted and sketched around this period, the exact identity of Jeune femme au chapeau blanc is unknown. Indeed, it remains unclear if Manet intended the work to serve as a portrait likeness of a friend or acquaintance—or, conversely, as a more generic, fashionable “type,” akin to a print in a fashion magazine. The famed feminist art historian Linda Nochlin once mused of this modernist genre, “Are the figures ‘sitters’ (portrait subjects whose identities are maintained or reinforced) or are they ‘models’ (figures hired by the artist to pose for him, usually with their actual identities erased or transformed)?” (“Impressionist Portraits and the Construction of Modern Identity,” in C.B. Bailey, ed., Renoir’s Portraits: Impressions of an Age, New Haven and London, 1997, p. 55). For Nochlin, the modernity of Manet and the Impressionists hinged upon this very ambiguity; Manet’s later images of women are at once precise enough to represent a specific personality, but also vague enough to allude to a broader category of fashionable bourgeois parisienne.
Pastel had become increasingly popular among French avant-garde artists in the latter decades of the nineteenth century; but in the final years of Manet’s life, this medium held a particular appeal for the artist. Helen Burnham, curator of Drawings and Prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has noted that by 1882, “Manet’s health was failing and he was spending more and more time outside Paris convalescing. Pastel, with its ease of handling, was ideal for this period of his career” (quoted in G. Groom, ed., Manet: Paintings and Works on Paper at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2019, n.p., no. 21). Indeed, sheets of paper were light and easily transportable—unlike the much larger, heavier canvases that had catapulted Manet to fame earlier in his career. Pastel compositions dried quickly and could be completed within a single session, leaving Manet free to explore new faces and new fashions. (According to Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein, of the eighty-nine pastels that Manet executed during this period, at least seventy represent modish women).
In additional to the convenience and practicality of pastel, the physical properties of this medium provided Manet with new textural possibilities, quite different to those of oil paint or watercolor. Jeune femme au chapeau blanc is seductive in its velvety, richly worked surface, comprised of several layers of delicate, powdery pigment. However, it is not entirely smooth; Manet allowed staccato strokes of pastel to sit unblended upon the top layer. This striated effect, particularly upon the skin and shoulders, serves to animate the composition, mimicking the flickering effect of light and shadow upon the surface of the young woman's cheek.
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