EP 20: Paris History Avec a Hemingway (Victorine Meurent)

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Jul 06 2020 22 mins  

Out today, another story of one of the amazing women in French history. Victorine Meurent was born in Paris on February 18. 1844 and from an early age she was drawn to art. In 1862 Edouard Manet walked into Thomas Couture’s studio and met a young girl. On this one day, Victorine-Louis Meurent was in Couture’s studio when Manet arrived. She was just 16, with red hair and nicknamed La Crevette and would go on to become the muse for some of the biggest artists at that time. He would paint her for the first time in The Street Singer, with her piercing eyes that we would come to know so well in two of his most famous and controversial paintings.  Victorine would sit for him 8 or 9 times. 

Many may know her name because of one fantastic painting, Olympia. The painting that rocked the Salon of 1863 with its suggestive subject of the courtesan laying naked on her bed while her servant brings her flowers from one of her admirers. Given the name Olympia, a name associated with prostitutes and the many small elements that hint at her wealth, many of which transferred over to the model herself. Victorine was nothing close to the woman in the painting, Born to a well established artistic family she would become an artist herself and present her work at the Salon in 1870. 

However it is her Manet paintings that we know so well. Now the other most famous painting may or may not even be her. In 1862 when Manet painted Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, another painting that would shock the art world he may have used her as the model, but it is more likely that he used his lover Suzanne Leenhoff. However at the end he would use the face of Victorine to conceal the woman he was in a secret relationship with.

She would sit for him a last time in 1873  for The Railway before they parted ways. Through her own art classes she preferred the academic style and Manet never liked being defined by any style. 

Sadly only two of her paintings remain at the museum in Colombes. Other than Berthe Morisot and Suzanne Valadon, , Victorine is a beautiful face we know so well from the brush of Manet. 


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