The photograph above was taken by Félix-Jacques Antoine Moulin in 1852 and is in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF). Art historian Beatrice Farwell believes the woman in the photo is Manet’s model, Victorine Meurent.
Here’s another of Moulin’s photos of the woman Farwell believes is Meurent:
In Farwell’s 1981 dissertation Manet and the Nude, a Study in Iconography in the Second Empire, she makes the case that Félix-Jacques Antoine Moulin photographed Victorine Meurent many times in 1852-53, and that the woman in those photos is “almost certainly” Manet’s famous model—even though Manet did not begin to paint Meurent until 1862. Farwell writes that she does not want to “belabor the resemblance, as any viewer will immediately be convinced or not.”
I find it all pretty convincing.
Recently, though, another photograph of Victorine Meurent appeared on the Web. Wikipedia added the image below to its page on Victorine Meurent. (I can’t tell you when it was added—I just know the photo wasn’t there the last time I looked at the Wikipedia entry.) The caption says the photo comes from an album belonging to Manet:
Hmm. This woman is dressed so primly that it’s hard for me to reconcile her image with the woman Manet painted over and over. Still, it’s hard to argue with a photo that was actually in Manet’s album. And I do think the woman above looks like the redhead in Manet’s The Railway (also known as Gare Saint-Lazare):
So who was Victorine, really?
To further confuse thing, here’s another of Moulin’s photos from 1852 that resembles both the reclining nude and the prim image from Manet’s album: