Jeanne Duvall was a actress and dancer born of both French and African decent. Duvall was initially known as the muse for French artist and art critic Charles Baudelaire. Edouard Manet respected the talent of Baudelaire, and painted his interpretation of his lover Duvall within The Portrait of Jeanne Duvall. The painting continues the style of Manet’s classic paintings of woman, displayed on a chaise as they pose. The piece was an imaginary interpretation of Duval as he had never met her, however had successfully illustrated her allure. As showcased within the painting, the woman lays on a black couch as she wears a white coloured dress.
The dress is immensely large and covers a large portion of the canvas. The top of the dress shifts to a black and white chiffon styled top part, with thin stripes. The woman’s feet peak out the bottom of the ruffles of her dress in a simple black shoe on top of white socks. The symbolism of fans continues in Manet’s work similar to his other work, The Lady With Fans. The woman within the painting holds a black fan in her left arm, while her other arm is placed gently along the couch, enlarging her body. As the viewer is able to look at the neck of the woman, they are able to witness a thin black cross located across her neck.
The muse of the painting, Jeanne Duvall, holds prominent features that distinguish her from other woman in Manet’s work. Manet had entered a fascination recently for the Spanish culture, and had based his paintings on the exotic Spaniards he had encountered. Jeanne Duvall was a fresh face for Manet to paint, illustrating her immense dark features through his work. This shifted Manet’s work from classic paintings of Parisian woman, to multicultural men and woman.
In the background of the painting, Manet had critically painted the beautiful white curtains hung above the woman. As witnessed within the painting, the curtains are based a sheer white chiffon material, having to be painted with an incredible amount of detail to showcase the fabric. Manet continued to display a simple texture on top of the curtains, adding to the piece of the painting. The overall allure the piece holds is an opening look at Manet’s fascination for exotic woman, painting their beautiful form and colours.