An artist friend says that the sources for Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (above)are far more likely to have been Giorgione’s Concert Champêtre and The Tempest than Raphael’s Judgement of Paris.  The Musée D’Orsay says, “Manet was paying tribute to Europe’s artistic heritage, borrowing his subject from the Concert Champêtre – a painting by Titian attributed at the time to Giorgione  – and taking his inspiration for the composition of the central group from the Marcantonio Raimondi engraving after Raphael’s Judgement of Paris“.

This raises the interesting question, “How do we know what an artist’s sources are?”  Often an opinion becomes fixed and is then repeated as fact.  The more it is repeated, the more authoritative it becomes.  But what did Manet say?  Paul Hayes Tucker says that there is a lot we don’t know about Le Déjeuner.  We don’t know who all the models were or how Manet “had the ideas of posing one of theme stark naked and the others in their own worlds, seemingly oblivious to everything around them.  We don’t know how many preparatory works he may have done for the picture, what other works of art from his own hand or by others he may specifically have been thinking about as the picture evolved, or what relation he wanted to establish between this picture and others he planned to exhibit with it.” (Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe, Cambridge UP, 1998)

Giorgione, Concert Champêtre

Giorgione, The Tempest

In fact we do know what works of art Manet was thinking about at the time because he told his friend Antonin Proust that he had been copying the Concert Champêtre: “When we were in [Coutoure’s] studio, I copied Giorgione’s women, the women with the musicians. It’s a really dark picture in which the ground has come through.  I want to make a new version, with a transparent atmosphere, with figure like those you can see over there.  They’ll tear me apart,  They’ll say I’m being influenced by the Italians after being influenced by the Spanish masters.” (Manet by Himself, ed. Juliet Wilson-Bareau, Little Brown & Company, 2000).  The composition of Le Déjeuner is so similar to the Raimondi that it was suggested as a source as early as 1864, a year after he exhibited  it. (French 19th Century Painting and Literature, Ulrich Finke, University of Manchester Press, 1972) Sources are sometimes based on speculation, but there can be no doubt about them in this case.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.