Femme sur un canapé (Berthe Morisot)
(Edouard Manet)


When Rouart and Wildenstein’s published the Lochard photograph of this Femme sur un canapé by Edouard Manet in 1975 as a lost work of unknown dimensions, they correctly identified the figure as Berthe Morisot, comparing it to a small bust-length Manet portrait of Morisot wearing the same dress. The Femme sur un canapé is signed Manet and dated 1873. According to Morisot, Manet himself salvaged the head as a fragment from a larger painting in which she was posed reclining on a sofa. Whereas Rouart and Wildenstein correctly implied the likelihood that the full-length image of Morisot documented by Lochard was seemingly a study for the work that Manet destroyed, except for the head, they offered no explanation for the omission of the full-length study by all previous cataloguers of Manet’s works, starting in 1902 with Morisot’s friend, Théodore Duret. Presumably Duret, and, later, Paul Jamot, Georges Wildenstein and Adolphe Tabarant simply lacked any record of its existence, because they were unfamiliar with Lochard’s photograph, preserved in the fifth volume of Lochard photos of the works in Manet’s studio, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

The Manet family’s Lochard photographs were mounted in 4 albums in 1899, and extra sets of the photographs were made for duplicate albums. The fact that only one copy of the Lochard photograph of this study survived suggests that Duret and the others were working from sets of Lochard photographs from which it was missing, almost certainly the four volume (and incomplete) set now in the Morgan Library, whence they were bequeathed by Tabarant.

Now that the actual work has been located, the early record of the painting can be greatly expanded. For example, although it is not visible in the underdeveloped Lochard photograph, the day bed makes it possible to identify the painting with item number 63 (“Petite femme sur un canapé”) in the inventory made after Manet’s death, with an estimated value of 50 francs. (Surprisingly, the Manet family members and associates responsible for the compilation of the inventory neglected to identify Morisot as the model.) As important, now that the painting’s dimensions are known, it can be identified as number 291 in the register of Manet’s works compiled by Leenhoff shortly after his stepfather’s death: “femme couchée attribué à la Duchess Colona (sic)/ non encadré/ photographié/ 49 1/2/ 64.”

As is so often the case, new information inevitably raises new questions. The Duchesse de Castiglione Colonna (alias Marcello, the sculptor) was Manet’s next-door neighbor on the rue de Saint-Petersbourg until she left Paris for Italy in 1876, three years before her death. If the painting belonged to her, why would it have remained in Manet’s studio? Had she left it unclaimed? Had Manet, at the time he offered the gift, promised to bring it to his more habitual degree of completion and then never realized his intention? An unpublished letter from Morisot to Manet’s widow clarifies this as she explains that the mother of the Duchess, the Countess of Affry, claimed the work when she passed through Paris following Manet’s death. It is not known when the family of Marcello sold the work, nor to whom, but by 1913 it was apparently in the possession of the dealer, Stephan Bourgeois, who was unaware that Morisot was the sitter. The supplement to the catalogue of the famous New York Armory Show lists Bourgeois as the lender of a “Portrait of Mary Laurent” by Manet.

Despite its previously obscure history and its sketchy handling, this painting has a key place both as part of Manet’s “series” of whimsical figure paintings of Morisot and as part of a more broadly interconnected group of works by Manet and his young admirers, including Degas, Renoir and Morisot herself. Either Manet or Morisot, (or both of them) evidently felt a need to “respond” to Degas’s 1869 extraordinary portrait of Morisot’s sister, Yves Gobillard, dressed in black and semi-reclined against pillows on a round sofa in the Morisot family living room, [New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art]. Degas’s odd treatment of the sitter’s hands, his uncanny rendition of the full skirt and his decision to leave the furniture undeveloped beyond the state of a sketch all find parallels in Manet’s study of Morisot. But apart from the evidence of constant dialogue among these artists, what seems most at issue in this work and in all of Manet’s early 1870s paintings of Morisot is an extension of the “espagnolisme” so vital to his works throughout the 1860s.

Of course, Manet was obsessed with the art of Goya when Morisot first modeled for him in 1868 as the seated figure in Le Balcon [Paris, Musée d’Orsay]. When she posed for Manet on the blue day bed against a bleak brownish background wall, Morisot again took on a Goyaesque role, this time that of reclining “maja.” For her infamous portraits, the Duchess of Alba had posed for Goya reclined on pillows on a blue sofa set against a bare brown wall. Manet had seen these first-hand when he visited the Prado in 1865. The allusion to Goya’s “majas” is equally apparent in Morisot’s Portrait of Mme Hubbard [Copenhagen, The Ordrupgaard Collection], generally dated 1874 on stylistic grounds, but probably painted around 1872-73 in tandem with Manet’s painting. Morisot’s sitter is reclining on what appear to be the same pillows on the same blue day bed. Indeed, given the similar sizes of the two works, they could be considered as pendants: Morisot’s reclining model wears white and reclines to the left, whereas Manet’s model (Morisot herself) wears black and reclines to the right. Moreover, in these works both artists adhere to the 1860s cult of the sketch with their scumbled renditions of the setting and furnishings

Indeed where Manet’s portrait of Morisot reclining is concerned, the rendition of the skirt is particularly sketchy and somewhat unresolved. Interestingly, the exact same sense of frustration in the rendition of a reclined female model’s skirt occurs in Manet’s Portrait de la maitresse de Baudelaire [Budapest, Musée des Beaux-Arts], 1862. Presumably this work was in Manet’s possession in the 1870s and thus a point of reference for both himself and Morisot. Manet best obtained satisfaction in his ongoing duel with spreading skirts in his 1873-1874 La Dame aux éventails [Paris, Musée d’Orsay], his portrait of Nina de Callias, acquired by Morisot at the sale of Manet’s estate in 1884. In this latter work the black skirt is a masterpiece of clumsy drawing with paint. Given the pains Manet took with such skirt motifs in the early 1870s, it is worth wondering whether Renoir intentionally sought to compete with his old rival, when in 1878 he conceived his grand Portrait of Mme Georges Charpentier and her Children [New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art], by incorporating the same elements of pose and costume at issue in this small Goyaesque study for which Morisot posed.

The documentary photograph of this work is preserved among the Manet documents at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris and was first published in the 1975 catalogue raisonné of Manet’s works by Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein. It shows large unfinished areas throughout the lower half of the composition and the upper right quadrant. The reclining figure in the painting is identical to the figure in the old photograph. Otherwise the photograph documents an unfinished sketch, whereas there are no blank areas whatsoever in the painting today. Thus, there was reason to associate this painting with a group of works left unfinished at Manet’s death and subsequently altered to make them more valuable in the art market. Starting no later than the 1890s several dealers evidently “finished” some of Manet’s abandoned works, and even covered up their vandalism by also altering the fundamental documentation for authentic Manet works, the photographs taken by Fernand Lochard in 1883 and/or early 1884 to supplement the inventory of Manet’s estate prepared by his stepson Léon Leenhoff.

In this case the discrepancies between painting and photograph should be disregarded. Firstly, a thorough examination of the painting undertaken at the conservation department of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in 1979 found no evidence to indicate that some areas might have been painted a decade or more after the figure, but instead concluded that the work was entirely completed during a single campaign. Secondly, technical information about the wet collodion process of photography practiced by Lochard bolsters the conclusions of the conservation examination. In wet collodion photography blue colors tend to show up as white. [3] As a result the blue day bed is not visible in Lochard’s photograph. As for the floor and the right side of the background, their absence from the photograph should be explained by the likelihood that Lochard sacrificed complete registration of the painting’s marginal areas in order to stop the developing process before the central figure darkened too much.

40.8 c 64.2 cm
Oil on canvas

Estate of the artist, 1883 (inventory after death, no. 63, as “Petite femme sur une canapé”); Register of Manet’s works, by Léon Leenhoff, number 291, “Femme couchée”, with correct dimensions 49.4 x 64.2 cm; promised gift to Adèle d’Affry, Duchess of Castiglione-Colonna, and collected by her mother Lucie, Countess d’Affry, in 1884 and deposited in the Musée Marcello, Fribourg, which had opened in 1881; Musée Marcello, Fribourg, Switzerland, until 1936; Charles A. Jackson Gallery, Manchester 1937-39; Christies, Manson & Wood, Pictures, Sale, 24 July 1939, lot 116 (“Ed. Manet, A lady in a black dress, reclining on a couch, 19 x 25 inches”); John Nicholson, Dealer in Paintings, London and New York (purchased by him at Christies); (Count) Ivan Podgoursky , New York and San Antonio, Texas, 1940-62; to his widow, Mary Podgoursky Ermolaev (1962-79); Private Collection, USA 1979-present.


Testamentary Inventory of the Estate of Edouard Manet, 1883, no. 63, as “Petite Femme sur un canapé”; (Fernand Lochard photos) Edouard Manet, Photographies d’après ses oeuvres, Volume 5, p. 34, Dc 300g P. 176356 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris);   Unpublished letter, Berthe Morisot to Suzanne Manet, 1883,Paris, archives Famille Rouart, Inventory 1-1-5 (located by Mme Sylvie Patry); Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein, Edouard Manet, Catalogue Raisonné, Wildenstein Institute, Paris, La Bibliothèque des Arts, 1975, volume I, p. 178, no. 210 “Femme Allongée sur un Canapé,” (as from 1873), partial reproduction; Berthe Morisot Exhibition Catalogue, Palais des Beaux Arts, Lille, 10 March-9 June 2002, p. 466, illustrated with the Lochard photograph as “Berthe Morisot sur un canapé.”


“Four Centuries of European Art: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of Count Ivan Podgoursky”, Philbropok Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK, October 1956 (illustrated in the catalogue as no. 4).
“Collection of Count Ivan Podgoursky”, Gallery of the Museum, Midwestern University, 4-28 November 1956, no. 11.
“Collection of Count Ivan N. Podgoursky”, Oklahoma City Art Museum, November 1957, no, 38.

Where is It?
Returned to Owner. The publication is out of print.
Historical Period
Realism to Impressionism - 1840-1900
Genre or Daily Life
2007-Manet, Berthe Morisot.
Publishes for the first time Edouard Manet's Femme Allongée: Portrait of Berthe Morisot, exhibited for the first time since 1913. Soft-bound. Text by Dr Charles Stuckey is illustrated with ten full-colour plates and includes endnotes, a bibliography, and a summary of the technical analysis undertaken by Dr Nicolas Easthaugh. £13 (incl. postage)

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