Victorine Meurent

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Victorine Meurent
Edouard Manet 088.jpg
Artist Édouard Manet
Year 1862
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 42.9 cm × 43.8 cm (16.9 in × 17.2 in)
Location Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Victorine Louise Meurent (February 18, 1844 – March 17, 1927) was a French painter and a famous model for painters. Although she is best-known nowadays as the favourite model of Édouard Manet, she was also an artist in her own right who regularly exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon. In 1876 her paintings were selected for inclusion at the Salon's juried exhibition, when Manet's work was not.


Victorine Meurent, Palm Sunday, c. 1880s, is the only surviving example of her work (Musée Municipal d'Art et d'Histoire de Colombes) (France).
Victorine Meurent, c. 1865, album of portraits belonging to Édouard Manet (BNF, France).

Born in Paris to a family of artisans (her father was a patinator of bronzes, while her mother was a milliner), Meurent started modeling at the age of sixteen in the studio of Thomas Couture and may also have studied art at his women's atelier.[1] She first worked for Manet in 1862, posing for a painting entitled The Street Singer. Manet was first drawn to Meurent when he saw her in the street, carrying her guitar.[citation needed] She was particularly noticeable for her petite stature, which earned her the nickname La Crevette (The Shrimp),[2] and for her red hair, which is depicted as very bright in Manet's watercolor copy of Olympia. As well as playing the guitar, Meurent also played the violin, gave lessons in the two instruments, and sang in café-concerts.[citation needed]

Meurent's name remains forever associated with Manet's masterpieces of 1863, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, which include nude portrayals of her. At that time she also modeled for Edgar Degas and the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens, both close friends of Manet. Her relationship with Stevens is said to have been particularly close.

Manet continued to use Victorine Meurent as a model until the early 1870s, when she began taking art classes and they became estranged, as she was drawn to the more academic style of painting against which Manet's work was in opposition.[citation needed] The last Manet painting in which Meurent appears is Gare Saint-Lazare, painted in 1873, which is often referred to as The Railway. The painting is considered the best example of Manet's use of contemporary subject-matter.

Three years later, Meurent first presented work of her own at the 1876 Salon and her work was accepted. Ironically, Manet's own submissions were rejected by the jury that year. Bourgeoise de Nuremberg au XVIe siècle, Meurent's entry at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1879, was hung in the same room as the entry by Manet. Work by Meurent also was included in the 1885 and 1904 exhibitions. In all, Meurent exhibited in the Salon six times. She also continued to support herself by modelling through the 1880s for Norbert Goeneutte, an artist best-known for his etchings today, and for Toulouse-Lautrec who took to introducing her as Olympia.

Meurent was inducted into the Société des Artistes Français in 1903, with the support of Charles Hermann-Leon and Tony Robert-Fleury, the Société's founder. By 1906 Meurent had left Paris for the suburb of Colombes, where she lived with a woman named Marie Dufour for the remainder of her life. The two appear to have shared ownership of their house. In her eighties she continued to refer to herself as an artist, as recorded in a census from that time. Meurent died on March 17, 1927. After the death of Dufour in 1930, the contents of the house were liquidated; in the late twentieth century, elderly neighbours recalled the last contents of the house, including a violin and its case, being burnt on a bonfire.

A painting by Meurent, Le Jour des Rameaux or Palm Sunday was recovered in 2004 and now hangs in the Colombes History Museum.

Meurent in fiction[edit]

Victorine Meurent's life has inspired two historical novels, and she appears as a character in several others.

The Irish writer George Moore included Meurent as a character in his semi-fictional autobiography, Memoirs of My Dead Life (1906). She appears as a middle-aged woman past her prime, living in a lesbian relationship with a famous courtesan.

Meurent is the protagonist of both Mademoiselle Victorine: a Novel (2007) by Debra Finerman and A Woman With No Clothes On (2008) by V R Main.

She also appears in the film Intimate Lives: The Women of Manet, aka Manet in Love (1998), played by Shelley Phillips, and most recently in Christopher Moore's novel Sacré Bleu (2012).

Meurent in Manet's works[edit]

Pronunciation and etymology[edit]

Her surname is pronounced as two syllables.[3] Eunice Lipton points out that the name is far more commonly spelled Meurant or Meurend in France. In French, the noun endings in -ent are always pronounced [ɑ̃]. Meurent is only a different spelling of the two others (different spellings for a name was very common in the nineteenth century in France).

The name is a derivative name from Morand, which comes from the Latin name Maurandus that is based on the Latin noun Maurus which means Moor.

There is no relation with the third person plural of "to die" meurent (i.e. "they die") even if the spelling is the same. It is never pronounced as the verb is.


  1. ^ Jimenez, Jill Berk (2001). Dictionary of Artist's Models. London: Routledge. p. 372. 
  2. ^ Ross King, The Judgement of Paris, p.37
  3. ^ "Victorine Meurent pronunciation: How to pronounce Victorine Meurent in French". 2010-01-24. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 

Further reading[edit]

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