Manet made the drawing representing La Toilette in preparation for the more elaborately worked etching. The outlines of the central figure in the drawing were incised, allowing the artist to transfer his design on to the surface of the etching plate. In certain places, Manet pressed so hard that his stylus cut through the bather’s contours, splitting the paper. The figure was transferred to the etching plate facing the same direction as the drawing but when printed the image was reversed. The model is probably Suzanne Leenhoff, who modelled frequently for the artist and would later marry him. She sits on a pouf with the indication of a basin at her feet while a loosely drawn servant in the background gathers up clothes. Manet captures a moment when, while bathing or drying herself, neither nude nor fully clothed, she catches the viewer’s eye, which causes her to clutch the fabric to her chest and flash a wary look. Manet’s use of red chalk – a once favoured drawing material that by the mid nineteenth century had become more unusual – and his choice to tackle the time-honoured subject-matter of a bathing nude interrupted in her task reveal his engagement with his artistic predecessors. Unlike depictions of the biblical or mythological bathing figures of Bathsheba, Susanna or Diana, who traditionally avert their gaze, Manet’s figure looks directly out and reacts, emphasising the viewer’s intrusive presence and voyeurism. Manet’s early etchings were often copies after his own paintings, and it has been suggested that this etching may reproduce a painted study, also entitled La Toilette, which is lost today but recorded by Manet’s friend Antonin Proust. In the drawing, the horizontal line across the knees may indicate where Manet once considered cropping the image, but he chose to include the full figure in the etching.


  • Title: La Toilette
  • Creator: Édouard Manet
  • Creator Lifespan: 1832-1883
  • Date Created: Circa 1862
  • Physical Dimensions: 28.4 x 22.4 cm
  • Type: Print
  • Rights: Photo Ⓒ The Courtauld
  • External Link: Explore The Courtauld's collection
  • Medium: Etching
  • Acquisition Credit: Samuel Courtauld gift, 1935

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