Manet's Mademoiselle escapes export

Edouard Manet's charming painting, Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, has been bought by the Ashmolean Museum following an eight month campaign and a large grant from the Art Fund.

Bathed in Manet’s soft pinks, creams and greens, this evocative work is a study for one of the key images of the Impressionist movement - the artist's great masterpiece, The Balcony, which now hangs in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Produced in the autumn of 1868, the subject was inspired by the sight of a group of figures on a balcony in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where Manet spent his summer holidays with his family. As one of Manet’s boldest and most immediate works, it exemplifies his astonishing technical ability and the enigmatic character of his figure paintings. It is therefore fantastic news that this painting has escaped a private buyer and will instead bring immense pleasure to those who view it at the Ashmolean Museum and beyond.

Mademoiselle Claus

Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus is an important example of Manet’s work from the late 1860s onwards when he began to focus his attention on his family and close friends. A member of Manet's close-knit group of friends and his wife's closest friend, Fanny Claus was a concert violinist and member of the first all-women string quartet.

The acquisition

The Ashmolean Museum succeeded in raising an impressive £7.83 million to keep the work on public view for all to enjoy. The acquisition has taken a dramatic series of events; the painting was bought by a foreign buyer for £28.35 million, but was fortunately placed under a temporary export bar until 7 August 2012 by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey due to the painting's outstanding cultural importance.

“Manet’s Mlle Claus is a beautiful, beguiling and exceptionally
important painting: We’re delighted to have supported the Ashmolean Museum’s successful public appeal with a major Art Fund grant - indeed one of our largest ever”

  • Stephen Deuchar
  • Director of The Art Fund

Under the terms of a private treaty sale, the painting was made available to a British public institution for 27% of its market value - hence the battle to save the painting begun in earnest.

The Art Fund was able to award a generous grant of £850,000 due to a bequest left to us by Robert Gunn, the terms of which specified that it should be used to support the acquisition of French Impressionist works for a national museum in London, or the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Where to see it

The painting is currently hung at the Ashmolean Museum and will go on loan to the Royal Academy from 26 January - 14 April 2013 for its major exhibition, Manet: Portraying Life; it will go on tour to the Bowes Museum in County Durham later in 2013.

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