The "beautiful Irishwoman" depicted in this painting is Joanna Hiffernan (born 1842/43), mistress and model of the artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), and perhaps subsequently Courbet’s lover. Although dated 1866, the picture was likely undertaken in 1865, when the two men painted together at the French seaside resort of Trouville; Courbet wrote of "the beauty of a superb redhead whose portrait I have begun." He would paint three repetitions with minor variations.
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Title:Jo, La Belle Irlandaise
Artist:Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:22 x 26 in. (55.9 x 66 cm)
Credit Line:H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): . . 66 / Gustave.Courbet.
[Félix Gérard, père, Paris, until 1896; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 25, 1896, no. 13, for Fr 2,020, to Gérard, fils]; [his son, Félix Gérard, Paris, 1896]; [Hector-Gustave Brame, Paris, until 1898; deposited at Durand-Ruel, Paris, June 15, 1898 (deposit no. 9360) as "La Femme au miroir"; sold on September 9 for Fr 4,000 to Durand-Ruel]; [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1898; stock no. 4762, as "Femme au miroir, cheveux rouges"; sold on October 12 (Paris stock book) or 27 for Fr 12,000 to Durand-Ruel]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1898; New York stock book no. 2042, as "La femme au miroir, or La Belle Irlandaise"; sold on December 31 for $2,800 to Havemeyer]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1898–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 74–75, ill.)
New York. Union League Club. "Old Master and Modern Paintings," November 10–12, 1898, no. 15 (as "Woman and Mirror") [see Sterling and Salinger 1966 and Weitzenhoffer 1986].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of the Works of Gustave Courbet," April 7–May 18, 1919, no. 23 (as "The Woman with the Mirror [La belle irlandaise]," lent anonymously).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 32 [2nd ed., 1958, no. 81].
Brussels. Palais des Beaux-Arts. "La Femme dans l'art français," March 13–May 24, 1953, no. 25 (as "La Femme au miroir" or "La Belle Irlandaise").
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Gustave Courbet, 1819–1877," December 17, 1959–February 14, 1960, no. 55 (as "The Woman with the Mirror").
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Gustave Courbet, 1819–1877," February 26–April 14, 1960, no. 55 (as "Jo, la belle irlandaise, 1866, The Woman with the Mirror").
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 60.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 60.
Paris. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Gustave Courbet, 1819–1877," September 30, 1977–January 2, 1978, no. 90 (as "Portrait de Jo, la belle irlandaise").
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Gustave Courbet, 1819–1877," January 19–March 19, 1978, no. 87 (as "Portrait of Jo, the Beautiful Irish Girl").
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "A Magic Mirror: The Portrait in France, 1700–1900," October 12, 1986–January 25, 1987, no. 34 (as "Jo, the Beautiful Irish Girl").
Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh. "Franse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten," March 15–May 31, 1987, no. 10.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Courbet Reconsidered," February 18–April 30, 1989, no. 54.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A147 (as "Portrait of Jo [La belle irlandaise]").
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme...," October 20, 1997–January 18, 1998, no. 14 (as "Jo, la belle irlandaise").
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 30.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gustave Courbet," February 27–May 18, 2008, no. 159 (as "Jo, the Beautiful Irishwoman").
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Realismo(s). La huella de Courbet," April 7–July 24, 2011, no. 30.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Whistler's Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan," February 26–May 22, 2022, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 50).
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Woman in White: Joanna Hiffernan and James McNeill Whistler," July 3–October 10, 2022, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 50).
Gustave Courbet. Letter [to Bruyas?]. 1865 [published in P. Borel, "Le Roman de Gustave Courbet," Paris, 1922, p. 99 n. 1, and in J. Rewald, "The History of Impressionism," New York, 1946, p. 113], states that he has begun the portrait of a beautiful red-headed girl.
Léonce Bénédite. Courbet. Paris, , p. 92, pl. 38, calls this work a replica of the version exhibited at Besançon in 1868 (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; F537).
Théodore Duret. Courbet. Paris, 1918, pp. 129–30, states that Courbet painted two versions of this composition.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "The Gustave Courbet Centenary Exhibition." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14 (April 1919), p. 74, ill. p. 73.
Loan Exhibition of the Works of Gustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1919, p. 9, no. 23, identifies the sitter as Joanna Abbot; erroneously lists this painting as being shown in Paris in 1867 and 1882.
Royal Cortissoz. "Gustave Courbet at the Museum." New York Tribune (April 6, 1919), p. 7, as "The Woman with the Mirror: La Belle Irlandaise".
Ragnar Hoppe. Honoré Daumier, Gustave Courbet: Två Franska Mästare och deras Arbeten i Nordisk ägo. Stockholm, 1929, pp. 80–81, mentions the Stockholm version and a replica in America.
Arsène Alexandre. "La Collection Havemeyer: Courbet et Corot." La Renaissance 12 (June 1929), pp. 276, 278, ill. on cover.
"Havemeyer Collection at Metropolitan Museum: Havemeyers Paid Small Sums for Masterpieces." Art News 28 (March 15, 1930), ill. p. 45, as "The Woman with the Mirror".
Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 55.
R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, p. 224, as "The Girl with the Mirror: Whistlers 'Jo'"; mentions another version of this picture at Reid and Lefevre, London (now private collection).
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 74–75, ill., calls it "Portrait—La belle irlandaise" and identifies the sitter as Whistler's companion, Joanna Abbot, whom Courbet painted twice at Trouville.
Charles Léger. Courbet et son temps (Lettres et documents inédits). Paris, 1948, p. 107, states that Courbet painted two portraits of Jo.
Gerstle Mack. Gustave Courbet. New York, 1951, p. 204, illustrates the Kansas City version and mentions two subsequent copies; identifies the sitter as Joanna Heffernan (later Mrs. Abbott).
Marcel Zahar. Courbet. Geneva, 1952, p. 115, contrasts this composition with "Woman with a Mirror" (F269; Kunstmuseum Basel).
La Femme dans l'art français. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles. Paris, 1953, unpaginated, no. 25.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 23.
Gaston Delestre. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. July 28, 1955, mentions a fourth version of this composition, in a private collection.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 187, 212, erroneously identifies the model as Johanna Pfeiffer.
Felix Baumann and Hugo Wagner. Gustave Courbet. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Bern. Bern, 1962, unpaginated, under no. 48, list the MMA and Kansas City pictures as replicas of the Stockholm version; states that Jo also posed for one of the figures in "Le Sommeil" (F532; Musée du Petit Palais, Paris).
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 128–29, ill., believe that the MMA and Stockholm pictures were probably painted slightly before the other two versions.
René Huyghe. La Relève de l'imaginaire. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle: Réalisme, romantisme. Paris, 1976, p. 424, fig. 451.
Lydie Huyghe in René Huyghe. La Relève de l'imaginaire. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle: Réalisme, romantisme. Paris, 1976, p. 442.
Robert Fernier. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Vol. 1, Peintures, 1819–1865. Lausanne, 1977, p. 244, catalogues another portrait of Jo (Fernier no. 447; private collection, USA), dated 1865, as a preparatory study for the later works showing her looking in the mirror.
Bruno Foucart. G. Courbet. Naefels, Switzerland, 1977, p. 69, ill. p. 65 (color), gives the model's name as Joanna Hiffernan.
Robert Fernier. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Vol. 2, Peintures, 1866–1877. Lausanne, 1978, p. 12, no. 538, ill. p. 13, calls it "La Jo, femme d'Irlande ou La belle irlandaise"; considers it a replica of the Stockholm picture.
Hélène Toussaint inGustave Courbet, 1819–1877. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Paris. London, 1978, pp. 138, 163–64, no. 87, ill. [French ed., 1977, pp. 179–80, 230, no. 90, ill.], dates it 1865?.
Alan Bowness inGustave Courbet, 1819–1877. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Paris. London, 1978, p. 19 [French ed., 1977], comments that this work is painted as "a pure Rossetti girl," and suggests that the symbolist ideas of the Pre-Raphaelites began to influence Courbet.
Denys Sutton. "Bonjour tristesse." Apollo 107 (January 1978), p. 4, fig. 14, disputes Bowness's claim [Ref. 1978] that this picture reveals the influence of Rossetti, Whistler, and Swinburne.
Hamish Miles. Letter to Lucy Oakley. June 19, 1981, notes that the spelling of Jo's surname as "Hiffernan" is based on two manuscript sources of 1866: one her signature on a deposition relating to the sale of Whistler's etchings, the other the spelling used by Whistler's lawyer, but that the customary spelling, "Heffernan," as used by Whistler's biographer and friend Jospeh Pennell, is an acceptable alternative until further research into Jo's life is undertaken.
Phoebe Lloyd. "Anna Whistler the Venerable." Art in America 72 (November 1984), p. 151 n. 24, refers to the model as Joanna Hiffernan.
Pierre Courthion. L'opera completa di Courbet. Milan, 1985, p. 102, no. 515, ill., and colorpl. XXVIII, dates it 1865(?).
Anne Distel inRenoir. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. [London], 1985, p. 188, under no. 8, compares it to Renoir's "Summer (study)" (Nationalgalerie, Berlin), observing that it is "halfway between the 'modern' genre figure and the individualized portrait" and that it also "relate[s] to the long tradition of the 'figure de fantaisie'".
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 136, 256, colorpl. 99, states that the Havemeyers bought this picture from Durand-Ruel in 1898, and that it was lent to the Union League Club [Exh. New York 1898] before being delivered to them by the end of December.
George T. M. Shackelford and Mary Tavener Holmes. A Magic Mirror: The Portrait in France, 1700–1900. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Houston, 1986, pp. 28, 100–101, 135–36, no. 34, ill. (color and black and white, overall and detail), call it "Jo, the Beautiful Irish Girl" and date it about 1865; relate the pose to Titian's images of Venus and the classical idea of vanitas.
Sjraar van Heutgen et al. inFranse meesters uit het Metropolitan Museum of Art: Realisten en Impressionisten. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1987, pp. 17, 46–47, no. 10, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Ann Dumas in Sarah Faunce and Linda Nochlin. Courbet Reconsidered. Exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, 1988, pp. 163, 166, no. 54, ill. p. 164 (color), asserts that this composition has very little, if any, symbolic meaning; notes that although the Stockholm version has traditionally been considered to be the original, the dating of all four versions is uncertain.
Rae Becker in Sarah Faunce and Linda Nochlin. Courbet Reconsidered. Exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, 1988, pp. 173–74, dates it "probably the summer of 1865".
Michael Fried in Sarah Faunce and Linda Nochlin. Courbet Reconsidered. Exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, 1988, pp. 48, 50, identifies the sitter as Jo Heffernan.
Gary Tinterow inDegas. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. New York, 1988, p. 415.
Klaus Herding. "Brooklyn and Minneapolis: Courbet Reconsidered." Burlington Magazine 132 (March 1989), p. 244, fig. 73, compares it with the three other versions, noting that the MMA picture has the "most subtle application of color".
Michael Fried. Courbet's Realism. Chicago, 1990, pp. 198–200, 205, 220, 228, 272–73, 289, 319 n. 41, pp. 337–38 nn. 25–26, p. 339 n. 32, colorpl. 11, equates the model's hair with the artist's brush, and thus sees an identification between the "painter-beholder" and the subject of the work; calls it a "narcissistic" image, "emblematic of Courbet's enterprise" and suggests it illustrates themes of observation and reflection; proposes the influence of Greuze, "Le petit mathématicien" (Musée Fabre, Montpellier).
Robin Spencer. Letter to Sarah Lees. September 5, 1992, reports documentary evidence on the sitter from a London census return of April 3, 1881, including the spelling of her name as Johanna Hiffernan, her age as 38, the existence of two younger sisters, and the names of her probable parents, John Christopher and Katherine Heffernan.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 187–88, 212, 301, 329 n. 260, p. 332 n. 303.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 224, colorpl. 211, states that before buying this picture from Brame, Durand-Ruel asked Mary Cassatt's advice about securing it for the Havemeyers.
Gary Tinterow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 22, asserts that Mrs. Havemeyer saw this picture when in an exhibition at the Théâtre de la Gaîté, Paris in 1881 [however, it was probably the Stockholm version that was exhibited].
Sarah Faunce. Gustave Courbet. New York, 1993, pp. 108–9, no. 31, ill.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 317, no. A147, ill. p. 316.
Gary Tinterow and Henri Loyrette. Origins of Impressionism. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1994, p. 316, fig. 387, call it "Portrait of Jo (La belle irlandaise [Portrait of Jo (The Beautiful Irishwoman)])" and identify the sitter as Johanna Hiffernan.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 427, ill.
Sylvie Patin. "La collection Havemeyer." 48/14: La revue du Musée d'Orsay no. 5 (Fall 1997), p. 9, ill. (color).
Jörg Zutter inCourbet: Artiste et promoteur de son œuvre. Ed. Jörg Zutter and Petra ten-Doesschate Chu. Exh. cat., Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne. Paris, 1998, pp. 43, 141, fig. 36, suggests that ours is one of five replicas of the original painting (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).
Nancy Yeide. "Hector Brame: An Art Dealer in Nineteenth-Century Paris." Apollo 147 (March 1998), pp. 42–43, 45 n. 18, fig. 4.
19th Century European Art. Sotheby's, New York. November 2, 2001, pp. 120–21, cites research by Sarah Faunce proposing that the MMA picture is the first version, based on distinct differences in the hair and facial expression between it and the other three, and asserting that the MMA painting was made in the fall of 1865, though not signed until 1866; Faunce argues that Courbet made the Stockholm version second, for himself, after receiving an offer to sell the first and that the other two versions were copied from the Stockholm picture.
Patricia de Montfort inDictionary of Artists' Models. Ed. Jill Berk Jiminez and Joanna Banham. London, 2001, pp. 275–77, ill., states that Joanna Hiffernan posed for The Met's picture in late 1865 when she was in Trouville with Whistler; notes that Courbet refused to sell this portrait of what he termed the "pretty Irishwoman" until the end of his life.
Valérie Bajou. Courbet. Paris, 2003, pp. 336–38, 419 n. 83, ill. (color), calls it "Jo l'Irlandaise" and dates it 1866; considers it one of the three versions made after the original in Stockholm.
Patricia de Montfort inWhistler, Women, & Fashion. Exh. cat., Frick Collection, New York. New Haven, 2003, pp. 80, 224 n. 10, fig. 75 (color), calls it "La Belle Irlandaise" and dates it 1866.
Ross King. The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism. New York, 2006, p. 180.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 50, 200, no. 30, ill. (color and black and white), notes that recent research indicates that this is the original version.
Michèle Haddad. Gustave Courbet: Peinture et histoire. Sainte-Croix, 2007, pp. 138–39, [does not refer to a specific version of this picture].
Charles Stuckey inThe Repeating Image: Multiples in French Painting from David to Matisse. Ed. Eik Kahng. Exh. cat., Walters Art Museum. Baltimore, 2007, p. 97.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 59, 234, no. 56, ill. (color and black and white).
Bernard Teyssèdre. Le roman de l'origine. rev., enl. ed. [1st ed., 1996]. [Paris], 2007, pp. 57, 337–38, 340–41, 373, suggests the influence of Rossetti's "Lady Lilith" (1866–68, altered 1872–73, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington) on this work, stating that Rossetti began his picture in 1864 and that Whistler could have spoken of it to Courbet or Hiffernan could have shown Courbet one of the sketches for it; notes the similarity of hand gesture and angle of the face toward the mirror in Rossetti's painting.
19th Century European Paintings. Sotheby's, London. June 27, 2007, p. 241, under no. 222, fig. 3 (color).
Kathryn Calley Galitz inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, pp. 332–33, no. 159, ill. p. 335 (color) [French ed., Paris, 2007], as "Jo, the Beautiful Irishwoman"; agrees with Faunce's chronology of the four versions [see Sotheby's 2001].
Dominique de Font-Réaulx inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 325 [French ed., Paris, 2007].
Dominique Lobstein inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 436 [French ed., Paris, 2007].
Jean-Philippe Huys inGustave Courbet et la Belgique: Réalisme de l'art vivant à l'art libre. Exh. cat., Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Milan, 2013, pp. 64, 81, 177, fig. 42 (color).
Jeffery Howe inGustave Courbet et la Belgique: Réalisme de l'art vivant à l'art libre. Exh. cat., Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Milan, 2013, pp. 136, 138, 143 n. 33.
Jeffery Howe inCourbet: Mapping Realism; Paintings from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and American Collections. Ed. Jeffery Howe. Exh. cat., McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College. Chestnut Hill, Mass., 2013, pp. 14, 19 n. 60, fig. 14.
Marnin Young. Realism in the Age of Impressionism: Painting and the Politics of Time. New Haven, 2015, figs. 131, 134 (Paris 1882 installation photographs), possibly this version.
Dominique de Font-Réaulx inDelacroix. Ed. Sébastien Allard and Côme Fabre. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2018, pp. 363–64, fig. 62 (color), notes the influence of Delacroix's "Mary Magdalen in the Wilderness" (1845, Musée National Eugène-Delacroix, Paris) on Courbet's image.
Dominique de Font-Réaulx inDelacroix. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2018, pp. 264–65, fig. 123 (color).
The three replicas of this painting are in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (F537), the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (F539), and a private collection (not in Fernier).
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