Edouard Manet’s 1866 painting, Woman With Parrot, depicts a woman posing with a parrot against a midnight-blue background. The model for the portrait is Victorine Meurenet – one of Manet’s favorite models in his early career. Despite receiving unfavorable reviews upon its exhibition at the Salon in 1868, the painting is now considered a powerful representation of a courtesan during the Second Empire.
This painting was created only one year after Manet’s controversial painting Olympia and showcases his ability to approach modern-life subjects with an innovative style. It also signals Manet’s pivotal place in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. The portrait illustrates both elements of idealization and realism in that it accentuates the beauty and elegance of Victorine Meurenet while also revealing her faults as she appears slightly pale under certain lighting circumstances.
It is interesting to note that approximately three-quarters of Manet’s completed portraits were of women which shows his fascination with depicting female subjects. Overall, Woman With Parrot stands out as an example of Manet’s masterful use of color and light along with his artistic ability to re-envision traditional genres such as portraiture or impressionistic landscapes in new/innovative ways.