This portrait of Fanny Claus is a study for one of the sitters in Manet's masterpieces, Le Balcon.

The three figures who posed for Le Balcon were all close friends of the artist. Fanny was a concert violinist who was especially close to Madame Manet; Berthe Morisot was already an accomplished artist, who had taken informal lessons from Manet, and who later married his brother, Eugène; and Antoine Guillemet was a minor Impressionist painter. It is likely that this portrait represents ManetÂ’s first idea for the painting, where Fanny Claus is seated and Berthe Morisot is standing beside her, positions that were reversed in Le Balcon. Regardless of its merely preparatory status, the Portrait of Mlle Claus is a fully resolved portrait unlike other large oil sketches by Manet. Miss ClausÂ’s features are brilliantly drawn, far more lively and characterful than in Le Balcon, while the artistÂ’s handling of the paint is extraordinarily confident, and his colouring both bold and subtle – from the deepest black of shawl and shoes to the brilliant pure white of the dress and between the delicate mauve of the sash to the green of the shutter and railings. This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


ManetÂ’s studio sale 1884; John Singer Sargent; by descent.

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