This painting is something of a puzzle.
It is dedicated to the artist’s close friend, Arsène Alexandre,
a well-known critic and supporter of modern painting. Like Carolus-Duran
he had been a close friend also of Manet, and it is perhaps in this relationship
that the key to our work lies. An elegant young woman in modern dress,
looking behind her past the nude female at left, introduces us to the scene.
Carolus-Duran, like Manet in the Nymph Surprised (Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional
de Bellas Artes), has taken Rembrandt’s Susanna at her Bath (The Hague,
Mauritshuis), and placed her by a stream. Boucher’s ‘Diana Bathing’ is
seated on a modern park bench, while another nubile female is toweling
herself dry. As in Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe, the
Stylistically the work is unusual because while it is unresolved, and sketchy, it would be mistaken to consider it unfinished – indeed, as mistaken as such a comment would be of many paintings by Manet. The artist has signed it and dedicated the painting to his friend (although the dedication has been partially effaced), but the sky and bold impasto in the clouds show a higher degree of finish than the more thinly painted foreground.
Exhibited: Nassau County Museum of
Art, La Belle Époque, 10th June – 24th September, 1995.