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Madame Manet, 1874-1876

Édouard Manet

French, 1832-1883
Oil on canvas
23-7/8 x 20 in. (60.6 x 50.8 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
M.1973.4.P
© 2012 Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

One of the first paintings Norton Simon bought for his collection, this portrait of Édouard Manet’s wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, is an excellent example of the artist’s sustained interest in portraiture. Throughout his career Manet painted close to one hundred portraits, nearly three-quarters of them portraits of women. The consummate Parisian, Manet had an interest in contemporary fashion that is constantly on display in these works, even in this quickly executed portrait. An embellished black comb and headband secure her casual updo, and a gold medallion on a black ribbon hangs around her neck. The painterly attention lavished on her face and hair contrasts with the more sketch-like approach to her high ruffled collar and gray jacket, and yet even with Manet’s interest in fashion, the focus of this portrait is on Suzanne’s serene expression. Indeed, as one of Manet’s friends once commented, “Madame Manet possessed something very exceptional—a gift for good nature, simplicity and candor, which nothing could alter.”

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