The artwork depicts a lady, but not in a colourful dress with a cheerful environment. Madame Brunet wears an almost completely black outfit, from head to toe, although viewers can't really see her feet since Manet cropped the canvas in order to resize it. The impressionist and realist artist Manet presents some quite amazing details in this painting. The leather gloves of Madame Brunet have a high contrast with the black palelot coat. The atmosphere is dark and kind of gloomy, which is actually the result of the influence of Spanish artists Diego Velazquez and Francisco Goya, the so called "Old Masters". Because of this, the Portrait of Madame Brunet is considered to be one of the paintings of the Spanish period of Manet.
Another point that gets the viewer's attention is Manet's ability to create effects of light. It's possible to see very clearly all the nuances of black in the sitter's coat, the sharp contours and the shadows of the lady's face. Despite being a remarkable piece of art, the real identity of the sitter remains a mystery. Some people believe that Madame Brunet was the wife of Manet's friend, the sculptor Èugene Brunet. But it has also been suggested that the lady could be the wife of the translator Pierre-Gustave Brunet. The only thing that seems to be certain is that the real Madame Brunet wasn't pleased by Manet's portrait. As the art critic Théodore Duret explained in a note, once she saw the painting, she began to cry, because Manet's style highlighted the not so beautiful features of her face. And then, she left Manet's studio, never claiming the work.
When Manet created the Portrait of Madame Brunet, the artwork wasn't very popular. Art critics expected some rich and beautiful young lady, not a realist, non-traditional portrait. The painting is one of the many creations of Manet that confronted the traditional art and the modern French life. Edouard Manet was a pioneer of his style. That's why Madame Brunet didn't receive the acceptation it deserved at the time of its first exhibition, in 1863, at Martinet's gallery. Currently, the painting is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum collection, located in Los Angeles, USA.