Two Sides of a Painting- Victorine Meurent

It is seldom that one is lucky enough to be art and an artist but Victorine Meurent had such luck. Born in 1844, she became a popular model at a young age. Even though she’s better known to be Eduaord Manet’s muse, Meurent was a painter herself as well. Her paintings were of class too, and were regularly exhibited at the prestigious Paris Gallery.

Meurent was a colourful character. At the age of sixteen she was modelling for artists and was also learning arts at a women’s institute. Her artistic relationship with Manet started in 1864 when he saw he saw her in the street carrying her guitar. Meurent was very petite which led to her nickname being: The Shrimp.


Manet’s first painting of Meurent was The Street Singer. One of the main reasons behind Manet’s attraction to Meurent was that she wasn’t the typical beauty of that era. In The Street Singer we see Meurent with a guitar tucked under her shoulder, apparently in a rush. The hem of her skirt is damaged and showing which gives away the fact that she isn’t financially well off. The way she’s cramming cherries into her mouth is also evidence of her distance from the refined women of Paris. The way she looks in a hurry also makes it seems like maybe she has another performance lined up and cannot spare the time to have a proper meal. Unlike the popular paintings of that time, The Street Singer was very different. It did not portray biblical women or extracts from mythology, but a real life woman with real dynamics of life.


Meurent also became a part of rather controversial paintings by Manet.  In Le Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe she could be seen naked at what seemed like a picnic with two fully clothed gentlemen sitting beside her in the woods. There was a lot of public outcry on this revealing painting. But Manet and Meurent were far from done. The next painting, Olympia, depicted Meurent as a Lady of the Night who just had intercourse with a client and with a professional nonchalance, was waiting for the other client. Whereas the first painting had no sexual hints, Olympia was obviously sexual.

black pose

Victorine Meurent art was impressive too. Although most of her art was lost through the years, Palm Sunday remains a highly acclaimed piece. Palm Sunday is a profile of a young girl with a small green bunch in her hand. The young girl in the picture seems to be lost in her thoughts, rather unbothered with the bunch she’s holding.

I think Victorine Meurent was a one of a kind artist. She knew art from the masterpiece’s perspective as well as the artist. It was through the honesty and bravery of her character that Manet was able to break the monotony of religious and mythological art. In a time when women who diverted from the norm at all were looked at with scorn, Meurent took a courageous step by posing nude and portraying to the public what real life is. I really like her as a model and as an artist because there is a truth about her, which gives any painting she’s associated with a raw and definite power.