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The Path of Nature: Collecting Off the Beaten Path


Woman in a Riding Habit (L'Amazone)

Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)

Oil on canvas
45 1/2 x 35 1/8 in. (115.6 x 89.2 cm)
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This painting of a horsewoman (in French, amazone) was long thought to represent the poet and novelist Louise Colet, muse of writer Gustave Flaubert. However, the sitter has since been identified as Madame Clément Laurier. This work, made on the occasion of her marriage in 1856, forms a pair with Courbet’s portrait of her husband (1855, Milwaukee Art Museum). The artist Mary Cassatt admired this picture as "the finest woman’s portrait Courbet ever did."

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower left): G. Courbet.

  • Provenance

    Théodore Duret, Paris (until 1906; sold for Fr 15,000 to Havemeyer); Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (spring 1906–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 92–93, ill., as "Portrait of Louise Colet—L'Amazone")

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of the Works of Gustave Courbet," April 7–May 18, 1919, no. 6 (as "The Amazon—Portrait of Louise Colet," lent anonymously).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 24 (as "The Amazon—Mme Louise Colet") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 80, as "The Amazon"].

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings," November 1–December 1, 1935, no. 168 (as "The Amazon, Mme Louise Colet").

    New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc.. "A Loan Exhibition of Gustave Courbet," December 2, 1948–January 8, 1949, no. 14 (as "The Amazon [Louise Colet]").

    Honolulu Academy of Arts. "Four Centuries of European Painting," December 8, 1949–January 29, 1950, no. 22 (as "Lady in a Riding Habit—L'Amazone").

    Art Gallery of Toronto. "Fifty Paintings by Old Masters," April 21–May 21, 1950, no. 5.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Diamond Jubilee Exhibition: Masterpieces of Painting," November 4, 1950–February 11, 1951, no. 58 (as "Lady in a Riding Habit").

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Gustave Courbet, 1819–1877," December 17, 1959–February 14, 1960, no. 24 (as "L'Amazone [Portrait de Louise Colet] [Lady in a Riding Habit]").

    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Gustave Courbet, 1819–1877," February 26–April 14, 1960, no. 24.

    Cleveland Museum of Art. "Style, Truth and the Portrait," October 1–November 10, 1963, no. 75 (as "Lady in a Riding Habit—L'Amazone").

    Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "From Delacroix to Matisse," March 15–May 10, 1988, no. 8.

    Moscow. Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. "From Delacroix to Matisse," June 10–July 30, 1988, no. 8.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A127 (as "Woman in a Riding Habit").

    Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme...," October 20, 1997–January 18, 1998, no. 17 (as "Femme en tenue d'équitation [L'Amazone]").

    Glens Falls, N.Y. Hyde Collection. "Realizing Courbet," November 5, 2000–February 4, 2001, no catalogue.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 24.

    Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19.Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Gustave Courbet," October 13, 2007–January 28, 2008, no. 140.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gustave Courbet," February 27–May 18, 2008, no. 140.

    Montpellier. Musée Fabre. "Gustave Courbet," June 14–September 28, 2008, no. 140.

  • References

    Zacharie Astruc. Les 14 Stations du Salon. Paris, 1859, pp. 390–91, describes this painting in detail, as seen in Courbet's studio: "Elle est vêtue en amazone, une longue robe noire à plis serrés dessine son corps gracieux; un petit chapeau noir enrubanné presse ses cheveux blonds".

    Georges Riat. Gustave Courbet peintre. Paris, 1906, pp. 171–72, identifies the sitter as the novelist Louise Colet.

    André Fontainas. Courbet. Paris, 1921, p. 71, calls it a portrait of Madame Louise Collet [sic] and dates it 1856.

    Charles Léger. Courbet. Paris, 1925, p. 66.

    Alan Burroughs. "The Links of Tradition: A Study of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Creative Art 7 (November 1930), pp. 332, 334–35, ill., compares it to Bronzino's "Portrait of a Young Man" (MMA 29.100.16).

    Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "The Havemeyer Pictures." The Arts 16 (March 1930), p. 466, ill., calls it "The Amazon—Mme Louise Colet".

    Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 55.

    H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 92–93, ill., calls it "Portrait of Louise Colet—L'Amazone".

    R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, p. 224, calls it "The Amazon" and dates it about 1856.

    Charles Léger. "Un Portrait inconnu de Louise Colet par Gustave Courbet." Nouvelles littéraires, artistiques et scientifiques (September 1, 1934) [unpaginated?], ill., mentions another portrait of Colet by Adèle Grasset.

    Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 344, pl. 273, dates it about 1856.

    Hélène Frejlich. Les amants de mantes: Flaubert et Louise Colet. Paris, 1936, unpaginated, ill., calls it "L'Amazone, a portrait of Louise Colet".

    Joseph F. Jackson. Louise Colet et ses amis littéraires. New Haven, 1937, p. 348 n. 29, comments that the sitter "scarcely resembles" Louise Colet.

    Fiske Kimball and Lionello Venturi. Great Paintings in America. New York, 1948, p. 172–73, no. 79, ill. (color).

    Charles Léger. Courbet et son temps (Lettres et documents inédits). Paris, 1948, pp. 62, 196.

    V. Visson and Daniel Wildenstein. A Loan Exhibition of Gustave Courbet. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, 1948, pp. 18, 22, 34–35, 41, no. 14, ill., suggest the influence of Delacroix's romanticism.

    Diamond Jubilee Exhibition: Masterpieces of Painting. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1950, unpaginated, no. 58, dates it about 1856.

    Gerstle Mack. Gustave Courbet. New York, 1951, pp. 142–43, doubts the identification of the sitter as Colet.

    Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 188, 201–3, describes being shown this picture by Mary Cassatt, who considered it Courbet's best portrait.

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX Century." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2, New York, 1966, pp. 113–15, ill., call it "A Lady in a Riding Habit—L'Amazone" and date it about 1857; comment that it does not resemble contemporary descriptions of Colet or a portrait of her by Winterhalter; note also that Colet would been forty-seven years old at the time of this painting, "an age difficult to reconcile with the appearance of the model".

    Georges Boudaille. Gustave Courbet: Painter in Protest. Greenwich, Conn., 1969, p. 75, identifies the model as Colet.

    Robert Fernier. Gustave Courbet: Peintre de l'art vivant. Paris, 1969, p. 84, as "Louise Colet (l'Amazone)".

    Hélène Toussaint in Gustave Courbet (1819–1877). Exh. cat., Villa Medici. Rome, 1969, p. 69, tentatively dates it 1856 or 1859; calls the identification of the sitter as Colet erroneous.

    Charles Scott Chetham. Modern Painting, Drawing & Sculpture Collected by Louise and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. Exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum. 3, Cambridge, Mass., 1971, pp. 382–84, under no. 159, ill., compares it to "Portrait of a Woman" in the Pulitzer collection, suggesting that, along with "A Spanish Lady" (Philadelphia Museum of Art), they depict the same unidentified model.

    Robert Fernier. "Peintures, 1819–1865." La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. 1, Lausanne, 1977, p. 122–23, no. 202, ill., calls it "L'Amazone," dates it 1856, and identifies the sitter as Colet.

    Charles S. Moffett in Manet, 1832–1883. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983, p. 54 [French ed., Paris, 1983], calls it "Lady in a Riding Habit (L'Amazone)" and dates it 1856.

    Pierre Courthion. L'opera completa di Courbet. Milan, 1985, pp. 83–85, no. 190, ill., identifies the model as Colet.

    Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 164–65, 180, 256, pl. 127, describes the Havemeyers' purchase of this picture in 1906 through Mary Cassatt, who kept it in Paris to make a study before sending it to them in New York.

    Ann Dumas in Sarah Faunce and Linda Nochlin. Courbet Reconsidered. Exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, 1988, pp. 119–20, notes that the model for "A Spanish Lady" (Philadelphia Museum of Art) has traditionally been identified as a Spanish woman who cared for Courbet in Lyon during his convalescence from cholera, and adds that it is possible that the same model posed for the MMA picture and "Portrait of a Woman" (Pulitzer Collection).

    Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 188–89, 201–3, 302, 329 n. 262, p. 331 n. 287.

    Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 242.

    Gary Tinterow in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 23–25, pl. 24, dates it 1856.

    Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 312–13, no. A127, ill.

    Stéphane Guégan Michèle Haddard. L'ABCdaire de Courbet et le réalisme. Paris, 1996, pp. 66, 94, calls it "L'Amazone" and dates it 1856.

    Ronald Pickvance. Manet. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 1996, p. 230, mentions our painting in a discussion of Manet's "Amazone à cheval" (Museu de Arte, São Paolo); dates it around 1859.

    Gary Tinterow in La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay. Paris, 1997, pp. 50, 104, no. 17, ill. (color), calls it "Femme en tenue d'équitation (L'Amazone)" and dates 1856.

    Kathryn Calley Galitz in Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 56, 233, no. 53, ill. (color and black and white).

    Kathryn Calley Galitz in The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 44, 198, no. 24, ill. (color and black and white).

    Michèle Haddad. Gustave Courbet: Peinture et histoire. Sainte-Croix, 2007, p. 119, suggests that this is a portrait of Mme Clément Laurier, since it is similar in format to Courbet's portrait of M. Laurier (1855; Milwaukee Art Museum).

    Kathryn Calley Galitz in Gustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 2008, pp. 149, 304–5, no. 140, ill. (color) [French ed., Paris, 2007], agrees with the identification of the sitter as Madame Clément Laurier, calling this picture a pendant to the portrait of her husband (Milwaukee Art Museum); notes the resemblance of Mme Laurier's attire with contemporary fashion plates; remarks that "the modernity of a woman dressed 'en amazone' in a plein-aire setting, as painted by Courbet, prefigures central tenets of Impressionism".

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History