Jeanne Duval: La Maîtresse de Baudelaire (Baudelaire’s Mistress)

Édouard Manetc. 1862

Kunsthalle Bremen

Kunsthalle Bremen
Bremen, Germany

This masterly watercolor, in which the white of the paper has been deliberately employed as a color, is a study for Edouard Manet’s painting Woman with a Fan, which he produced in 1862 and which hangs in Budapest’s Szépmuvészeti Múzeum today. It shows the actress Jeanne Duval, whose exotic charm the French writer Charles Baudelaire succumbed to in 1842, when he was still quite young. In his collection of poetry Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) he repeatedly described the beautiful Creole in passionate tones, though he tried to leave her at the beginning of 1852. This situation was exacerbated when Duval fell very ill in 1853, becoming severely disabled due to a paralysis in 1859, and insisting on financial support. Before this backdrop, the dark and oddly stiff-seeming portrait by Manet appears rather as a visual interpretation of Baudelaire’s last lines to his lover: “Disease and death make ashes of all the Fire that flamed for us. Of those wide eyes so fervent and tender, The mouth wherein my heart would drown its lust, The kisses strong as marum, the delightful, fierce transports livelier than the solar rays. [ . . . ] A faded sketch, in three pale crayons done” (Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal, 1857).


  • Title: Jeanne Duval: La Maîtresse de Baudelaire (Baudelaire’s Mistress)
  • Creator: Édouard Manet
  • Date Created: c. 1862
  • Physical Dimensions: 167.0 x 238.0 mm
  • Type: drawing
  • Rights: Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen. Kupferstichkabinett
  • Medium: Watercolor

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