Boating, 1874 by Edouard Manet

This is a delightful study, still in the old style. The figure of the boy stands out against a dark background, but a close examination of the painting of the face and hands shows those generous, luminous flesh tints which were to reappear later in the Fifer. Though classical in tendency, Manet's treatment here displays the glowing blond texture that he gave to flesh in all his later work and that finally characterized his painting in general.

The model for this picture inspired Baudelaire's prose poem "La Corde" in Spleen de Paris, which first appeared in VArtiste. The boy, whose name was Alexandre, was fifteen. Manet had engaged him to clean his brushes and palette and occasionally to pose for him. Alexandre was subject to fits of depression. One evening, Manet called him in vain. He eventually found him - he had hanged himself in a corner of the studio in the rue Lavoisier that Manet shared with Albert de Balleroy. Distressed by this suicide, Manet went in search of another studio and found one at the Place Clichy. As he went in however, his eye was caught by an enormous nail protruding in sinister fashion from the plaster. "Who hanged himself here?" he asked jokingly. "How did you know?" exclaimed the concierge in amazement. Manet turned on his heel and fled without inquiring further.

This boy, who also posed for Boy with a Dog, is immortalized by the bright, youthful smile Manet has given him. The hand clutching the cherries displays that characteristic treatment, bold and darkly outlined in places, which was to be found thereafter in all the hands painted by Manet.