Emilie-Louise Delabigne (1848–1910), Called Valtesse de la Bigne

Edouard Manet French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 817

Manet’s sitter emerged from a grim early life to become one of the wealthiest and most fashionable courtesans in Paris. By the time she posed for this portrait, at age thirty-one, she had reinvented herself as the Valtesse, a play on the phrase "Votre Altesse" (Your Highness). Cultivating a coterie of upper-crust suitors and admirers among the literati, she surrounded herself with the trappings of aristocratic luxury. Her grand bed, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, inspired the boudoir of the prostitute Nana in Emile Zola’s scandalous novel, published in 1879–80. To the Valtesse’s delight, this elegant pastel was shown at the Salon of 1880, just a year after Henri Gervex’s refined full-length portrait (Musée d’Orsay, Paris).

Emilie-Louise Delabigne (1848–1910), Called Valtesse de la Bigne, Edouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris), Pastel on canvas

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