It is easy to imagine the reactions of those who expected pictures to be finely finished when we look at this candid portrait, boldly painted in a sweeping and simplified
style. This is the first work in which Manet displays his strong and rapid touch and also his first portrait of the model who was to pose for him regularly until
1875 - for Luncheon on the Grass, Olympia, and Gare Saint-Lazare.
In 1862 Victorine Louise Meurend was only twenty years old, but she already had a certain gravity of expression. Tabarant writes that she had "fine eyes, animated by a fresh and smiling mouth. With that, the lithe body of a Parisian, delicate in every detail, remarkable for the flowing line of the hips and the supple grace of the bust." Where did she come from ? Theodore Duret claims that Manet met her at the Palais de Justice, where he "had been struck by her unusual appearance." She lived in the rue Maitre-Albert in the fifth arrondissement, where the painter had the proofs of his first etchings printed. She played the guitar and sketched.
In this portrait, Manet shows her thoughtful, if a trifle limited. She has the red-gold hair of a Venetian that reappears in Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, where the breadth of the face is accentuated even more. She wears about her neck the black ribbon that Manet often placed on his models. The black accents on the collar are still a little awkward and heavy in this experimental study; very shortly Manet was to learn to handle his shadows with great mastery.