This is the story of a mystery—Édouard Manet’s last etching, its possible destruction and curious resurrection. The etching in question repeats, as do so many of Manet’s print, the composition of a painting, in this case Jeanne, shown in the Paris Salon of 1882. That Manet was unhappy with his etching and asked to have the plate destroyed we know from his correspondence. That a plate exists and that posthumous editions were printed from it we know from the material evidence—the plate itself (in the Bibliothèque nationale de France) and the impressions printed from it—and from references in all the print catalogues of Manet’s oeuvre. But is this plate the same as the one Manet etched and disowned? An answer, along with further mysteries, may have surfaced with a hitherto unknown impression that has recently come to light (Fig 3). What follows is an attempt to unravel a complex sequence of events, and to identify the hands and minds behind the Jeanne that for more than a century has been regarded as the last etching by this great artist.
The Paris Salon of 1882 opened its doors to the public on 1 May, following a private view the previous day. Two paintings by Manet were on view: Un bar aux Folies-Bergère (no. 1753) and Jeanne (no. 1754), picturing a woman with a parasol in profile, also known as Le Printemps (Spring) (Fig. 1). The day after the opening, Manet dashed off a one-page note to his printmaker colleague, Henri Guérard: “Thanks, my dear Guérard – I’m clearly no good at etching any more – plough a good burin line across this plate and all the best, E. Manet.”1 (Fig. 2) The plate Manet was suggesting be destroyed has always been identified with that of his much-admired Salon painting Jeanne.2 By this date, Manet was already seriously ill; he died almost exactly a year later, on 30 April 1883.
A decade after Manet’s death, a retro-spective of his prints was held as part of the Fifth Exhibition of the Société des Peintres-Graveurs Français at the Durand-Ruel Galleries on rue Le Peletier, from 7 to 28 April 1893.3 It was organized by Guérard, as vice-president of the Society, and the catalogue lists 41 etchings and lithographs followed by the indication, “Collection Guérard.”4 The listing includes no mention of Jeanne or Le Printemps. On 25 April, Manet’s widow, Suzanne Manet-Leenhoff, wrote Guérard a three-page letter in which she refers to etchings he is selling for her, thanking him for his help and agreeing that the prices he had obtained were “very fair.” She mentions that she is still looking for a proof of the “petite fille” (Harris 19) and had found another of the “guitarero” (Harris 12) on a different paper, and continues: “since it is for you and in order to complete your collection, I will let you have the unpublished etchings you have requested, as well as l’enfant à l’épée (Harris 25 or 26) which is in its Salon frame.”5 She then insists (probably responding to a question from Guérard), “I know absolutely nothing about an etching of Jeanne. I have never seen anything but photographs of the painting, as well as the pretty print you made of it.” She closes by thanking Guérard and confirming that the sale of more proofs would be helpful.6
Four days later, on 29 April, Suzanne wrote from Gennevilliers (the Manet family property north of Paris, which became her home after her husband’s death), following a final visit to the exhibition. She had hoped to find Guérard there, and explains that she bitterly regrets having offered him two frames, each containing proofs of three prints (numbers 1–3 and 4–6 in the catalogue), writing that she had posed for some of them and wanted to keep them until her death, as souvenirs of her beloved husband.7
These letters provide insight into Suzanne Manet’s relationship with Guérard, who was helping her to realize her inheritance and at the same time evidently hoping to form a complete collection of Manet’s prints that would include rare states and unpublished works. A fortnight later, on 15 May, Suzanne wrote to Guérard’s wife, Jeanne, with whom she was on more intimate terms, as she had also been with Jeanne’s sister, Eva Gonzalès, Guérard’s first wife. (Eva had died in childbirth just a few days after Manet’s death.) Suzanne greets “dear, good Jeanne,” and thanks both of them for taking such trouble to help her. She goes on to say, “Mr. Guérard must have received the guitarero and the petite fille” (the prints mentioned in her letter of 25 April), and continues, “I have also found Jeanne à l’ombrelle (Jeanne with the parasol), I am ashamed to have forgotten that my husband had made an etching of it. I am putting aside this proof for your husband.”8 The correspondence relating to the Durand-Ruel exhibition and the framed prints Suzanne wished to reclaim appears to have ended with a letter written on 14 July, in which she sends her congratulations to Guérard on his nomination as Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and thanks them both for “bringing me back the etchings.”9
The questions posed by this hitherto unexplored correspondence and the implications of the prints that were or were not included in the April 1893 Durand-Ruel exhibition are many. First and foremost they expose what seems to have been a major error in the cataloguing of Manet’s prints from the start—the dating of the first posthumous edition of his etchings. In his introduction to the 1906 catalogue of the etchings and lithographs, Étienne Moreau-Nélaton declared, “After Manet’s death, the copperplates that remained in his studio were subjected to a trial publication by his family in 1890.” In describing this portfolio, he very properly provided a transcription of the engraved title page: “Recueil de 24 planches sur japon Impérial format 1/2 Colombier” (Collection of 24 plates on Imperial japan [paper], in 1/2 Columbier format),10 and at the end: “Édité à l’imprimerie de Gennevilliers (Seine)” (Published at the printing works in Gennevilliers, department of the Seine). Moreau-Nélaton’s description included the complete numbered list of plates: 23 etchings by Manet, of which the last is Le Printemps (the alternative title for Jeanne) (Fig. 6), plus Félix Bracquemond’s ex-libris, made for his peintre-graveur friend. If Jeanne was not among the prints from Guérard’s collection exhibited in the April 1893 Manet retrospective of the Peintres-Graveurs exhibition, and Suzanne denied all knowledge of such an etching at the time, then her later location of a single proof notwithstanding, the existence of an edition—even a very small one—made three years earlier becomes an impossibility. More-over, while Moreau-Nélaton gives 1890 as the publication date, the texts he transcribed do not include one, and he gives no reasons for his assertion.11
Prints from the Gennevilliers portfolio are exceedingly rare, and it was probably a private memorial production for the family (rather than a trial printing, as suggested by Moreau-Nélaton), made between May 1893 and June the following year, when the 23 plates were sold (along with 7 others) to the publisher Louis Dumont. That Guérard was involved in the Gennevilliers production and may have printed the very limited edition himself is suggested by the fine quality of the materials and printing, with carefully wiped proofs in black ink on lightly textured, ivory wove, large-format, simili-japon paper. The print of Jeanne is particularly delicate and clean-wiped.12 The later, 1894 edition by Dumont used dark sepia ink on old, slightly greenish-blue ledger paper; a list of plates exists, together with a limitation statement of 30 impressions.13 Jeanne is included in the Dumont group, as in the Gennevilliers set, and continues in the subsequent editions of 1902 (Fig. 7) and 1905.
This explanation corrects the dating of the impressions and editions of the copperplate long catalogued as part of Manet’s oeuvre. But how does one account for the knowledge that Manet had instructed Guérard to destroy his unsatisfactory plate of Jeanne, or for the impression of Jeanne found by Suzanne sometime between 25 April and 15 May 1893, or for her mention to Guérard of the “pretty print” he had made of Manet’s painting of Jeanne?14 No further reference is known to have been made to the rediscovered “proof” she set aside for, and very likely gave to, Henri Guérard.
It was not until 2012 that an apparently unique proof—almost but not quite identical to the etching of Jeanne known and catalogued for a century—appeared on the French art market (Fig. 3). The material evidence makes it clear that this proof is not a new state of the familiar plate but the product of a distinctly different plate, presently unknown and probably destroyed as Manet requested. This lost plate is here called Jeanne I and can be distinguished from the existing copperplate (Fig. 4), which becomes Jeanne II, by their size (small platemark, large copperplate), and through close analysis of their similarly-sized designs. The linear characteristics of the newly discovered proof differ in minute but significant details from Jeanne II, whether compared with the available impressions or with the copperplate itself, which exists in its final state with the cancellation holes punched through at top and bottom (Fig. 4). Manet’s despair, as expressed in his note to Guérard, is understandable if it refers to the newly discovered proof of Jeanne I (Fig. 3) given evident defects in his control of the etching needle, particularly noticeable in the drawing of Jeanne’s mouth and chin, and a lack of precision in the definition of the figure, and its setting against the plant-filled background, which is such a feature of the painting (Fig. 1). Furthermore, whether or not it is the same proof that Suzanne found and made available to Guérard, it was almost certainly printed by Manet himself. It is unevenly wiped, with fingerprints near the left edge (the right edge of the inked copperplate); the margins of the plate have not been cleaned; and a flaw of some kind, running diagonally along the left edge of the dark ribbon below Jeanne’s chin and across her gloved fingers that hold the parasol, has yet to be analyzed.
This looks like a proof hastily pulled by an anxious amateur printer seeking to judge the result of an etching in progress. Guérard, as a master printer, would never have pulled or sent such a messy proof to Manet. Yet what the print lacks in professional expertise it gains in the sensitivity and delicate, atmospheric quality communicated in what would now appear to have been Manet’s truly last etching. Another indication of its “unprofessional” status is that it is printed on a small sheet of wove paper (normally not used for etchings), which suggests the use of a random sheet that happened to be to hand in Manet’s studio. Although no printing press appears in the inventory of items in the artist’s studio after his death, we know it was one of the first pieces of equipment, together with a stock of etching materials, that he acquired when setting up his first studio as a young, independent artist in 1859–60.15
More strictly technical evidence also distinguishes the newly discovered proof from the Jeanne II plate. In Jeanne II, an etched slip stroke runs diagonally down from the upper borderline across the shading on the parasol. This probably occurred during the initial biting of the plate, which included a signature very close to that on Jeanne I, although less spontaneous. An annotated, possibly unique proof before aquatint (Fig. 5), which evidently passed from Guérard to the American collector Samuel P. Avery, shows strong pitting and false-biting over the figure and background, which is much reduced by careful wiping in later prints. This early proof, like that with aquatint in the Gennevilliers portfolio (Fig. 6), predates a light scratch that appears below the slip stroke and is visible in all later impressions; both slip stroke and scratch are clearly visible on the cancelled copperplate.16
This proof (Fig. 5) is on a large sheet of paper with an annotation along its lower edge: “1st state before the aquatint, Manet’s last plate, bitten and aquatinted by Guérard”17 (Fig. 8). This curiously ambiguous statement leaves the authorship of the design on the copperplate in limbo. It would now appear that Jeanne II is not the direct product of Manet’s hand, but a recreation of his lost original plate, executed by Guérard in homage to the artist and with the consent and no doubt encouragement of his widow, on the tenth anniversary of Manet’s death (though too late for its inclusion in the 1893 retrospective exhibition).
Exactly how Guérard would have created a second plate that almost perfectly replicates Manet’s print as seen in his proof is a mystery for which the Jeanne II material assembled here has revealed the likely sequence: the design of Manet’s proof would have been traced by hand and transferred to the copperplate on which a hard-ground etching produced deep, crisp lines as well as extensive false-biting and pitting. The proof before aquatint (Fig. 5) was taken from a very heavily inked plate, while for the Gennevilliers impression in the state, with aquatint (Fig. 6), much lighter inking was completed by a final wipe that eliminated plate tone and greatly reduced the false-bite pitting. These traditional etching techniques do not reveal any evidence of the use of photogravure.18
The copperplate used for Jeanne II bears the maker’s stamp on the verso: EUG.NE LEROUX PLANEUR / PARIS. Eugène Leroux was active as an engraver and platemaker from 1876 to 1886, and the plate used for Jeanne II, almost a decade after Leroux had ceased production, would no doubt have been selected by Guérard from a stock of copperplates in his studio as a suitable matrix for the re-creation of Manet’s lost original print.19
Manet’s early graphic work of the 1860s had essentially been concerned with interpretations of his own paintings, as part of the revival of printmaking by artists, sponsored by Alfred Cadart with his print shop on the rue de Riche-lieu. Toward the end of the decade, Manet was beginning to contribute original etchings, as well as drawings for wood engravings and gillotage reproductions (a method of producing relief blocks and plates for printed images), to illustrate books and journals, usually for authors or publishers who were personal friends or colleagues. In the 1870s great advances were made in reproductive technologies, particularly those that could be combined with typographic printing on the page, and Manet was increasingly tempted to exploit them. Etching was on the way out, other than as “prestige” original prints for such serious journals as the Gazette des Beaux-arts, and when Manet rejected his etching after the painting of Jeanne in 1882 he turned to other methods to satisfy the demand for illustrations of this captivating work. A later installment of the story of his painting at the Salon of 1882 and its reproductions will show how Manet took on a variety of technical challenges to create images for mass-circulation newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and printed books, intended to reach out to an ever wider audience.
The research for this article could not have been carried out without the generous collaboration of many people, among whom I would particularly like to thank, for past and on-going help: Sylvie Aubenas and Valérie Sueur-Hermel at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Estampes et Photographie; Hans Buijs at the Fondation Custodia, and everyone at the Galerie Paul Prouté, in Paris; Peter Bower in London; Judit Geskó and Kata Bodor at the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest; Gloria Groom at the Art Institute of Chicago; Scott Allan and Emily Beeny at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Jay McKean Fisher at the Baltimore Museum of Art; Madeleine Viljoen at the New York Public Library; Lothar Osterburg at his print shop in the Hudson Valley; and lastly, but at the forefront on every level of this investigation, my independent Paris colleagues, Hélène Personnaz-Godet and Samuel Rodary.
The essential catalogue raisonné references for Manet’s graphic work, in order of publication, are cited by author’s name and catalogue number:
• Étienne Moreau-Nélaton, Manet graveur et lithographe, Paris, 1906 (the ‘Preface’ reprinted in Guérin 1944, pp. 11–21)
• Marcel Guérin, L’œuvre gravé de Manet, Paris, 1944
• Jean C. Harris,Édouard Manet: Graphic Works, a Definitive Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1970; and Édouard Manet. The Graphic Work. A Catalogue Raisonné. Revised edition, edited by Joel M. Smith, San Francisco, 1990.
• For Jeanne, see also exhibition catalogues or entries by Juliet Wilson[-Bareau]: Édouard Manet. Das graphische Werk, Ingelheim am Rhein, 1977 (no. 107); Manet: dessins, aquarelles, eaux-fortes, lithographies, correspondance, Galerie Huguette Berès, Paris, 1978 (nos. 72 and 109); Manet 1832–1883, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris / The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983 (no. 214); and by Jay McKean Fisher, The Prints of Édouard Manet, The International Exhibitions Foundation, 1985-1986 (no. 75).
- The envelope was addressed to “Monsieur H. Guérard, 15 place Bréda, Paris” (now place Gustave Toudouze). Manet wrote: “2 mai / merci mon Cher Guérard – décidément l’eau-forte n’est plus mon affaire – labourez moi cette planche d’un bon coup de burin et amitiés / E. Manet.” Bibliothèque de l’Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art, Doucet collection (henceforth INHA), Autographes, 107. 038, 04. Photography by Samuel Rodary. Henri Guérard (1846–1897) was a highly skilled etcher and printer. He created exquisitely precise and delicate prints of such decorative objects as engraved crystal vessels for the Gazette des Beaux-arts, and also imaginative and ornamental prints, often with a strong Japanese flavor.
- On 29 April Manet had written to the critic Gustave Goetschy, indicating that it was impossible to reproduce the Bar, and that he would provide a drawing for a reproduction of Jeanne (BnF Manuscrits, Naf 24839, fº 395). All known reproductions relating to Manet’s paintings in the 1882 Salon are of Jeanne, and it is very likely that he had already begun his etching to illustrate a review of the Salon by his friend Antonin Proust.The review of the Salon by his friend Antonin Proust who had commissioned the painting of Jeanne appeared in the Gazette des Beaux-arts on 1 June, but with the reproduction of a drawing by Manet, not an original etching.
- Société de Peintres-Graveurs français. Cinquième exposition, Paris 1893. A copy of this catalogue, absent and apparently unassessed in the Manet print literature, is in the BnF Estampes: YD2-1338 (1893)-8.
- Manet’s print “retrospective” (pp. 5–7) lists 30 etchings, 7 lithographs (ending with the Polichinelle chromolithograph), and 5 transfer lithographs (from Le Corbeau, and Au Paradis, Harris 83 b-e, and 86). For Guérard’s 14 prints, 1 drawing and a ‘pyrochromie’, nos. 181–196, see pp. 31–32.
- Two different prints of Boy with a sword were framed for Manet’s memorial exhibition at the École des Beaux-Arts in January 1884, together with Les petits cavaliers (The little cavaliers), one of three prints that Manet had shown at the 1863 Salon des Refusés (no. 674), and Suzanne may have associated the more recent framing with that much earlier exhibition.
- The relevant French text reads: “Je n’ai aucune connaissance de l’eau-forte de Jeanne. Je n’ai jamais vu que des photographies de ce tableau, ainsi que la jolie gravure que vous en avez faite.” Paris, INHA, Autographes, 107, 038, 05.
- INHA ibid. The prints were among those recorded in Fernand Lochard’s later photographs of the graphic works as framed for the 1884 memorial exhibition.
- Paris, Fondation Custodia, inv. 2013, A.7. In a review of Théodore Duret’s biography and catalogue of Manet’s work, published in 1902 and assessed in the Gazette des Beaux-arts on 1 November that year, pp. 427–432, Roger Marx referred to Manet’s graphic work and paid tribute to the devotion of Henri Guérard, who had revealed the artist’s unknown etchings and lithographs in the 1893 exhibition of the Peintres-Graveurs. Bound within the illustrated text article is a fine impression of Guérard’s “Original etching,” Jeanne II, after Manet’s original proof (Figs. 3 and 7).
- Paris, Fondation Custodia, inv. 2013, A.8).
- Columbier is a French paper of variable size—60 x 80, 62 x 85, 63 x 90 cm—with “Imperial” possibly indicating a slightly larger size.
- The 1906 print catalogue description is confirmed by a complete copy, in its portfolio, in the Vente Georges Viau, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 6–7 December 1909, lot 181, described as undated, but with Moreau-Nélaton’s date of 1890 in brackets. No trace has been found in the Bibliographie de la France for such a publication in the years between 1882 and 1894.
- A set of the Gennevilliers prints, acquired in December 1913 as a complete portfolio for 3000 Marks (now lacking its cover and text pages), is in Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, inv. L.56.7-29. The over-all sheet size is 51.4 x 37.8 cm (plus or minus 2 to 6 mm).
- Dumont’s print shop was later taken over by Alfred Strölin, who in 1905 printed the final, and much less attractive, edition of 100 impressions in a hot, reddish-toned ink on cream laid paper, before cancelling the copperplates.
- It is possible that Suzanne’s memory was at fault, and that she was confusing a color print (based on photographs by Charles Cros) with color etchings that Guérard had made, though the catalogues of Guérard’s work do not mention any print after Manet’s painting of Jeanne.
- Manet’s very early (unpublished) sketchbook, in the Tabarant archive in the Morgan Library, New York, includes a quick drawing of an etching press on p. 86, and references to the rebiting of etching plates elsewhere. If he still had an etching press in 1882, rather than using one that was available nearby, it may have been donated to a colleague by Manet himself when he saw that his etching days were over, or by his heirs. It may even have gone to Guérard.
- Future scrutiny of the very rare Gennevilliers portfolio prints and those from the 30 sets printed by Dumont on distinctive old paper (of which a number of unsold sets were marketed by Strölin in his 1905 edition portfolios) may lead to the dating of the scratch.
- The proof is part of the Samuel Putnam Avery Collection at the New York Public Library (NYPL). The annotation in French—Jeanne. 1er Etat avant l’aquatinte. dernière pl. de Manet. mordue et aquatintée / par Guérard—may have been written by Guérard, or added by George A. Lucas, a Baltimore expatriate in Paris who bought directly from Guérard and/or Suzanne Manet, and sold to Avery. The state of the NYPL proof, so heavily inked that it does not provide a clear view of the etched lines, was defined for the first time by William Weston, in “Note on the states and editions of Jeanne—Le Printemps” in the small gallery publication Édouard Manet 1832-1883. A Selection of Etchings and Lithographs, 2 May 1979, nos. 37 and 38 (variant impressions from the 1902 Gazette des Beaux-arts edition), followed by the note. Weston, who follows tradition in discussing an impression from the “1890 Gennevilliers portfolio,” describes it as a first edition, in the second state with aquatint, which is followed by a third state with the scratch that affects the Dumont 1894, Gazette des Beaux-arts 1902, and Strölin 1905 impressions.
- Lothar Osterburg, ‘master printer,’ carried out an unsparing analysis of the copperplate and proofs, thanks to high resolution images, and his conclusions (emails of 13 and 14 February 2019), briefly summarized here, appear incontrovertible and answer many of the questions posed by Jeanne II.
- Compared with the platemark on Jeanne I, the much larger Jeanne II copperplate measures 25 x 18.4 cm, and the etched borderline 15.8 x 10.9 cm (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Réserve des Estampes, Musée, pl. 46).