Jeanne (Spring) (1881) by Édouard ManetThe J. Paul Getty Museum
A chic young woman in a day dress with floral accents holds a parasol against a background of lush foliage. She looks straight ahead, a picture of poise and detachment even as she seems fully aware of the viewer's admiring gaze.
The Mysterious “Jeanne”
By the end of the 19th century, the painting now in the Getty collection had become widely known as Le Printemps, or Spring. But when artist Édouard Manet first exhibited it in the Paris Salon of 1882—to much critical acclaim—he simply entitled it Jeanne.
But who was this Jeanne, this young woman Manet had painted in a fetching spring ensemble, complete with a dainty parasol, ruffled bonnet, and long suede gloves, against a backdrop of flowering rhododendrons?
The mysterious young woman was the reputed Parisian beauty, occasional model, and aspiring actress Anne Darlaud (1865–1937), who went by the name of Jeanne or Jane Demarsy. A few years after she made her debut as Manet’s model in the painting, she caught the public’s eye on the Paris stage for her portrayal of Venus in Jacques Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers.
Aside from Jeanne’s charm, Spring also showcases Manet's mastery of his medium. The painting exhibits a marvelous range of brushwork, from the delicate floral touches on the dress...
to the smooth handling and deliberate contours of Jeanne's face...
...to the broader, looser strokes of the backdrop. The painting's sensual handling and bright, vibrant palette evoke the pleasures of the season it celebrates.
From Jeanne’s dress and bonnet to her flowering backdrop, floral motifs signaled her fashionable femininity, to the point that critics described her as a living flower or a bouquet, a word also commonly used to describe painting that emphasized the seductive appeal of color.
Flowers serve a variety of purposes in Manet’s work and appear in different mediums and formats, from small-scale still lifes in oil and watercolor, to intimate pastel portraits of fashionable women, to large-scale oil paintings destined for the Salon like Jeanne.
When composing this painting, Manet had in view both the latest fashion trends and old artistic traditions. An avid connoisseur of feminine couture, he reportedly pieced together Jeanne's ensemble himself by scouring dressmakers' and milliners' shops. Posing his model in the studio, however, he referred to aristocratic portrait conventions of the early Italian Renaissance, presenting her half-length, in sharp profile, and against shallow backdrop.
Manet's paintings were rejected by the Salon or met with controversy for more than two decades. Spring was one of the few public and critical successes of his Salon career, a career that ended tragically with his death a year later in 1883. More than just an up-to-the-minute fashion plate, Manet's Spring was conceived as a picture for the ages, summarizing his modern epoch through the archetypal figure of the beautiful Parisienne.
“An absolute masterpiece, the master’s Mona Lisa or, even better, a real Parisienne from the tip of her charming upturned nose to the end of her parasol which she holds in her gloved hand with such chic… You are adorable, Mademoiselle Jeanne..." — Ernest Hoschedé, Impressions de mon voyage au Salon de 1882
How To: Art Projector for Manet's "Jeanne (Spring)" (2020)The J. Paul Getty Museum
© 2020 The J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles
A version of this material was published in 2019 as the in-gallery text for the exhibition Manet and Modern Beauty, October 8, 2019–January 12, 2020, at the Getty Center, as well as the accompanying catalogue Manet and Modern Beauty: The Artist’s Last Years.
To cite these texts, please use: Jeanne (Spring) published online in 2020 via Google Arts & Culture, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.