This painting of a horsewoman (in French, amazone) was first observed in Courbet’s studio in the late 1850s by the artist and critic Zacharie Astruc (1833–1907). He did not provide the sitter’s name, and her identity has never been confirmed. The artist Mary Cassatt admired this picture as "the finest woman’s portrait Courbet ever did." What very likely began as a portrait has become emblematic of the independent modern woman. Women riding horseback were still a rare sight, and for a woman to ride unaccompanied by a man was considered scandalous.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:Woman in a Riding Habit (L'Amazone)
Artist:Gustave Courbet (French, Ornans 1819–1877 La Tour-de-Peilz)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions: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
Inscription: Signed (lower left): G. Courbet.
the artist, Paris (until at least 1859); 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")
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," 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.
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.
Henry McBride. "News and Comment in the World of Art." The Sun (April 6, 1919), p. 12, as "The Amazon"; calls the sitter a writer of short stories.
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.
R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, p. 224, calls it "The Amazon" and dates it about 1856.
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".
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.
Charles Léger. Courbet et son temps (Lettres et documents inédits). Paris, 1948, pp. 62, 196.
Fiske Kimball and Lionello Venturi. Great Paintings in America. New York, 1948, p. 172–73, no. 79, ill. (color).
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.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 22.
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. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. 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".
Hélène Toussaint inGustave 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.
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)".
Charles Scott Chetham. Modern Painting, Drawing & Sculpture Collected by Louise and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. Exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum. Vol. 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. La vie et l'oeuvre de Gustave Courbet. Vol. 1, Peintures, 1819–1865. Lausanne, 1977, p. 122–23, no. 202, ill., calls it "L'Amazone," dates it 1856, and identifies the sitter as Colet.
Charles S. Moffett inManet, 1832–1883. Ed. Françoise Cachin and Charles S. Moffett. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983, p. 54 [French ed., Paris], 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. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 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 inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 242.
Gary Tinterow inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 23–25, pl. 24, dates it 1856.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 312–13, no. A127, ill.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 424, ill.
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.
Stéphane Guégan Michèle Haddard. L'ABCdaire de Courbet et le réalisme. Paris, 1996, pp. 66, 94, calls it "L'Amazone" and dates it 1856.
Gary Tinterow inLa 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 inThe 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 inMasterpieces 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).
Helen Burnham. "Fashion and the Representation of Modernity: Studies in the Late Work of Edouard Manet (1832–1883)." PhD diss., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 2007, p. 213, pl. 4.16, dates it both 1857 and 1867.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inGustave Courbet. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 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".
MaryAnne Stevens inManet: Portraying Life. Exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art. London, 2012, pp. 31, 191, under no. 36, p. 194, under no. 43, associates its landscape with that of Manet's "Portrait of Mme Brunet" (1860–63, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles); notes that Manet may have seen Courbet's painting in Théodore Duret's collection and that it may have inspired Manet's "The Amazon" (ca. 1882, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid).
Juliet Wilson-Bareau. "Manet's 'Amazon': A Final Salon Painting." Burlington Magazine 154 (April 2012), p. 259, fig. 30 (color), explores the picture as a possible source for Manet's "The Amazon" (Madrid) and related paintings, and notes that Manet could well have seen the Courbet "in some as yet undefined context," possibly after Courbet's death in 1877.
Helen Burnham inManet and Modern Beauty: The Artist's Last Years. Ed. Scott Allan, Emily A. Beeny, and Gloria Groom. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Los Angeles, 2019, p. 53 n. 67.
The sitter was long believed to be Louise Colet (1810–1876), more often recalled for her liaison with novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821–1881), author of Madame Bovary (1856), than for her own literary efforts. However, differences in their appearances have been noted since at least the 1930s, and the traditional identification has been abandoned. She was recently identified as Madame Clément Laurier (Haddad 2007), about whom some biographical details have emerged subsequently. She was born Anne-Léonie Maquet on March 21, 1840, and she married lawyer and politician Clément Laurier (1831–1878) on September 11, 1856. They had two daughters. After Clément’s death, Anne-Léonie married financier and publisher Jean-Baptiste Gerin (1847–1920). She predeceased her second husband, dying on February 28, 1888, in Paris.
Courbet painted a portrait of Clément Laurier (Milwaukee Art Museum; Fernier 171), which is signed, dated, and inscribed: a mon / ami / Laurier, / Gustave / Courbet 1855. That painting measures 39 3/8 × 31 3/4 inches (100.01 × 80.65 cm). It was undoubtedly on the basis of the date of Laurier’s portrait, the traditional dating of The Met’s painting to 1856, the date of the Laurier-Maquet wedding, as well as similar treatments of the backgrounds in both pictures, that led to the identification of the sitter in the present work as Madame Laurier. Courbet wrote to his family from Lyons on October 15, 1856: ". . . I spent five weeks in Le Blanc [at Laurier’s château de L’Epineau, Indre Department]. I painted a portrait and four landscapes, in spite of Laurier’s wedding." It has been suggested that the sitter for the portrait mentioned by Courbet was Laurier’s mother-in-law (see Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, ed. and trans., Letters of Gustave Courbet, Chicago, 1992, p. 153); the corresponding painting of Madame Charles Maquet (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Fernier 200), measures 39 3/4 x 32 5/16 in. (101 cm x 82 cm).
Despite these points in common, caution should be exercised in identifying the woman who sported a riding habit to pose for Courbet in The Met’s picture. First, the dimensions of the Amazone, which are 45 1/2 x 35 1/8 inches (115.6 x 89.2 cm), correspond to a standard size fifty portrait canvas. This is somewhat larger than the Laurier and Maquet portraits, which were painted on standard size forty portrait canvases. (See Anthea Callen, The Art of Impressionism: Painting Technique & the Making of Modernity, New Haven & London, 2000, p. 15.)
Second, the date of the Amazone is not secure. Artist and critic Zacharie Astruc (1833–1907), who met Courbet in 1855 and began visiting his studio that year, was the first to describe the painting (Astruc 1859), but he did not identify the sitter, and neither did he provide a date. It was six decades before the painting was assigned to 1856 (Fontainas 1921), a date that has sometimes been questioned but largely accepted.
It also bears noting that there is a gap in the Amazone’s early ownership history that extends from Astruc’s sighting of it in the later 1850s until journalist and sometime dealer Théodore Duret (1838–1927) sold it to the Havemeyers in 1906. If the painting does depict Anne-Léonie Maquet, Madame Laurier, then there is no trace of her or her first husband acquiring it. By contrast, the portraits in Milwaukee and Stuttgart descended through the sitters’ family.
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.