A gripping art history cold case: the previously untold story of Victorine Meurent, forgotten painter and famous muse to artists from Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec, and the modern search for her lost paintings
When former art student and journalist Summer Brennan learned that Édouard Manet’s favorite model from such iconic works as Olympia and Lunch on the Grass had been a painter in her own right, but that all of her paintings had been lost, she couldn’t resist the allure of the mystery.
Appearing in more than thirty surviving works by her era’s most famous academic, impressionist, and post-impressionist artists, Victorine Meurent was part of the creation of a mythic bohemian Paris: Émile Zola is said to have modeled one of the scandalous heroines on her, and she lived, drank, and exhibited her work alongside legends like Monet, Degas, and a group of women known as the “lesbian sisterhood of Montmartre.”
After more than a decade spent researching Meurent and her world, Brennan painstakingly pieced together clues to tell a fuller picture of her life and reclaim the first pieces of her lost oeuvre, revealed here for the first time. The Parisian Sphinx is an art history puzzle in which Meurent emerges as artist, muse, and woman ahead of her time, who defined and defied an era.