Last week I wrote about how Marville’s old photographs of Paris allowed me to enter Victorine’s world. I needed that gift from the past, the history provided by Marville. But the flow goes both ways: there are some things of mine, from the present, that I gave to Victorine. It’s what novelists do:  we give pieces […]

I don’t know if I would have been able to write the story of Victorine Meurent without the work of another artist—and I don’t just mean Manet, the man who painted her over and over. I mean that without the photos of Charles Marville, or Charles François Bossu, I would have had much more difficulty imagining […]

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 […]

Manet inspires me for many reasons, but I’ll focus on just one in this love letter. Almost as soon as Manet started to paint, people criticized his choice of subjects, use of color, composition, or style of painting. One of his first critics was his teacher, Thomas Couture, who objected to Manet’s desire to portray […]

Today I’m thinking of the black necklaces Manet often painted women wearing. Maybe many women did wear chokers. But I think Manet painted black ribbon necklaces in so many of his portraits because the strip of black against skin added something essential to his compositions—and just because he liked the way it looked. He made black chokers […]

I look down and fiddle with the metal clip and the band.  I keep my head lowered and when I get tired of pushing at my stocking, I let my fingers relax and just keep them there, the tips tucked under the band above my knee.  It is not like the nude poses for Moulin.  […]

Olympia, cette fille de nos jours, que vous rencontrez sur les trottoirs et qui serre ses maigres épaules dans un mince châle de laine déteinte.
 
~ Émile Zola

Victorine Meurent was born on February 18, 1844, not far from Canal Saint-Martin. She started posing for Manet when she was a teenager, and was his “modèle de predilection” for thirteen years. She became an artist and exhibited at 1876 Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. She’s the first-person narrator and star of my novel, […]