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Portrait of Méry Laurent with a Pug

Painting, 1882, 61×52 cm
Audio guide is available for this artwork

Description of the artwork «Portrait of Méry Laurent with a Pug»

Méry Laurent was one of the most famous Parisian courtesans. She was a mistress of an old Thomas W. Evans, an extremely wealthy American dental surgeon who worked on teeth of the Emperor Napoleon III. Evans was not under any illusions that Méry was faithful and behaved in a decent way. But he was very attached to her, loved to talk to her at dinner and admired her beauty. That’s why he closed his eyes to her small dalliances.
Méry Laurent run a saloon at her place, hosting the artistic avant-garde in the evenings, including Marcel Proust, Édouard Manet, Stéphane Mallarmé, Émile Zola, James Whistler and other celebrities. She has become the prototype for Odette de Crécy’s character in a novel “In Search of Lost Time” written by Proust. And she was a muse for Manet in his last years. She was his last passion.

They met at the artist’s studio in 1876 during the boldest gamble ever undertaken by Manet. Rejected by the Salon yet again, Manet decided to organize an exhibition of his work at his own studio. People lined up at his doors. He’s been vilified and admired, some people laughed at him, others thanked him. More than four thousand viewers visited his studio exhibition in two weeks. Méry Laurent also came to see the work of the most scandalous artist in Paris and when she saw the canvas “Laundry”, refused by the Salon that year, she highly praised it.
They’ve had an affair for 6 years until the very death of Manet. Méry supported him when he suffered severe pain, when he stopped walking and was able to paint only small still lifes. She sent him sweets and fruits, wrote long letters to an asylum where he was bored and followed doctors’ orders. Medical procedures were of a little help. Manet was dying from syphilis.

It was getting harder for Manet to execute oil paintings. He became fascinated by pastel, requiring not a big physical effort yet challenging new coloristic opportunities. Thoroughly and with distinction does Manet execute the texture of a shimmery silk dress Méry wears, the flower on her breasts, the glares on her smooth hair. And contrary to them, in a completely naughty way does he mess up the hair of a dog sitting in the model’s lap by the separate pastel strokes of different colors. As if a dog shook its head when being shoot at high exposure, and the image blurred.
George Moore, a writer who knew both Manet and Méry, wrote in his memoirs that when the lilac started blooming she has been gathering several lilac branches and put the bouquet regularly on Monet’s grave at the anniversary of his death. She did remember that these were his favorite flowers.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait, Animalism

Style of art: Impressionism

Technique: Pastel

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1882

Size: 61×52 cm

Artwork in selections: 7 selections