White dresses were de rigueur for fashionable Parisian women during the summer, and they were a favorite of Impressionist painters as well, many of whom depicted not only the popular white muslin dresses but flowering lace curtains or diaphanous drapery in the same painting, reveling in the play of light on white. White fabrics challenged painters and their palettes with their transparency and undertones of different colors, and they occur frequently in Impressionist painting.
But the real star in this painting—Édouard Manet’s sketch of Jeanne Duval, who was his friend Charles Baudelaire’s former mistress—is the absurdly billowing skirt Duval wears. The skirt, which takes up nearly half of this painting, is really a caricature of a woman under the influence of a crinoline, a cage worn under a skirt to help keep its form. Some of the earliest forms of the crinoline in France were stiffened petticoats meant to keep the skirt in shape, but by the 1860s the crinoline had “evolved” into a steel cage that was fastened around a woman’s waist, giving a skirt the appearance of a bell. Crinolines were widely ridiculed—as Manet is doing here—and grew, in cartoons and prints, to hideous proportions (Check out our related installation Fashionable French Farce in Galleries 223A and 225A, featuring Honoré Daumier’s and Felicien Rops’s take on couture, including women parachuting through the skies with crinolines and parasols.)
The reign of the steel-cage crinoline was quite brief, and by the time Manet made this painting, crinolines had started to change from the dome shape he represented here to a version that was gathered in the front and sides, leaving the roundedness of a skirt to the area of the derriere. This, of course, was the beginning of the bustle, famously celebrated in the rhythmic lines and swoops of George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte--1884.
Historians agree that Jeanne Duval—or any fashionable woman in Paris—would not have actually worn a skirt or crinoline so large. Rather, Manet took liberties in his representation of Jeanne, emphasizing and exaggerating the marks of modern femininity. While not quite a parody, Lady with Fan brings to the fore the artifice of being a woman in this era—corseted, caged, powdered, gloved, and, most of all, dressed.
Credit: Édouard Manet. Lady with Fan, 1862. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, 368.B.
12 hours 1 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—Otis Kaye incorporated currency into a series of works as a commentary on the close relationship between art and commerce. Heart of the Matter shows a torn-up representation of Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer with a stack of cash hanging from its center. The painting was purchased at the time for a record-breaking price. Kaye sought to critique the commercialism at the “heart” of the art world while paying tribute the great artists who make it possible.
See our new acquisition—Otis Kaye's Heart of the Matter—on view in Gallery 262.
16 hours 43 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—To Build a Modern Campus: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the Illinois Institute of Technology, 1939–1948
Former Bauhaus director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began designing the IIT campus mere months after arriving in Chicago. To Build a Modern Campus examines both the project’s exemplary expression of modern technology and the social struggle of those displaced by its construction.
2 days 19 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago "We still live in a country where only tragedy teaches us the names of invisible men."
Chicago Reader visits Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem, on view through August 28.