Topic: Provenance, presumption and imposition
Have you ever looked at something and felt inner rebellion against what you're told about it?
Sometimes intuitive objection is so compelling we seek an explanation- something we're told or have learned is wrong. I found this on the cover of acclaimed biography of Charlotte Bronte (since amended), the contented subject of photo not Charlotte but her best friend' Ellen Nussey'- one example of how reliable provenance can be miss-interpreted or miss-appropriated- or how new information can contradict old.
There must be very compelling provenance attributed to Eva Gonzales' recently uncovered 'Self-portrait', unequivocally listed on these pages.
The first contradicting detail obvious is that it's not a self-portrait, nor subject's view.
It not possible to paint one's self without looking (Herni Rousseau's comical 'peripheral vision' exercise 'Looking at the Lamp' 1903 [also wrongly listed: 'With Lamp']).
The sketch can't be a self-portrait because neither wonky eye is looking at her self.
It is also tiny- 8" X 10" not 'larger than life' 18" X 24" suggested in Athenaeum description. Seated self-studies, mirror at arm's length, usually scale subject c. 3/4 life-size. Why place the reference (mirror) so far away?
Secondly, the likeness cannot be consolidated with any known image of Eva Gonzales.
Eva is distinguished with a facial 'mole', or 'fairy kiss' 1cm below right lip extreme not apparent in sketch- the mark is consistently and faithfully depicted in sister Jeanne's exquisite drawing, all Manet's portraits and in a crisp, hi-res photo. Also, defying vanity, her real self-portrait '46. Mille Vue_' ('Thousandth Look') Feb 1879 faithfully depicts the tiny, indelible distinction, but uniquely, on the opposite, mirror-reflected side.
There is no 'fairy kiss' evident below 'pursed' lips or chiseled chin of oil-sketch. The elfin-faced pixie with auburn curls is not the fleshy looker that stole Manet's infatuation.
The caption is by Eva, but not the Fleeting Star her self.
It is an impossibly rare and significant moment of exchange between Eva and her rival Berthe Morisot.
I wrongly imagined the wandering left eye was Eva's mischief.
It was not Eva's mischief. Actually her diligence and fidelity that depicted Berthe's wonky left eye.
Berthe was distinguished with genetic condition in which one or selectively either/both eyes point outwards, sometimes described 'reversed esotropic vision', rare especially among artists and evidently long intriguing Manet..
Although Manet manipulated features, he always included distinguishing features, and his early favourite muse no exception- all his portraits of Berthe show her awkward eye, and again defying vanity, for pure fidelity and posterity, even Berthe's own self-portrait points her left (right reflected) eye outwards. There is no doubt the recently Certified and re-sold oil-sketch is not Eva Gonzales' self-portrait, but her impeccable caption of Berthe Morisot.
The Certifying expert did not offer a date or theme, or occasion motivating or inspiring the Artist to suddenly visit and dash out her image on a drawer-bottom. The subject's assumed i/d was established by reference to; one unspecified Manet portrait and one other portrait by unknown maker in private hands. Expert made no reference to photos or fine drawing by the Artist's sister relied on by expert to establish Eva's appearance in C.Raisonne.
This at first bemusing portrait had good reason for Eva's making. Like Eva's real self-portrait, her sketch of Berthe is associated with marriage.
Here is the pensive bride, in transparent, symbolic whiteness, in twilight of maidenhood, here this moment surrendering a personal dimension in her relationship with Manet to her facing rival with the flying brush. (Once married, Berthe would never pose for Manet again.)
Seen in perspective, must rate among Eva's greatest works.
What puzzles me is why is this memento masterpiece believed to be the Artist's 'self-portrait'? While so, the real, irrefutable 'Cinderella' waits, and weeps, barred from public view. Does anyone disagree with observation the 'self-portrait' oil-sketch is Eva's Berthe Morisot?
Best wishes, James Gorin von Grozny.