Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Manet Miracle


1.  an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
2.  an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

This story I'm about to share has so many beautiful twists and happenings that the only word I can use to describe it is "miracle".  It has become a once-in-a-lifetime thread of sheer happiness that will for the rest of my life bring a smile accompanied by a shake of my head as I ponder how this all occurred.  Read on and share with me what word you would choose to describe this series of events.

It started with facebook and a friend named Josie.  Josie posted that she wanted to fill facebook with beautiful art and whomever would comment on her post would be assigned an artist.  I commented.  She assigned.  Manet.  An artist I had heard of but had never really studied his works.  I am an engineer by profession and a costumer by hobby and the fine arts have not been part of my life where the demands of living took so much of my time.  But now that I'm semi retired with access to the sum total of human knowledge at my fingertips, I can pursue those things I've missed.

I am immediately taken with Manet's works and choose to post Le Printemps to brighten Josie's and my facebook world.

Edouard Manet, French Impressionist, 1832 - 1883

These are valuable websites to learn about Manet and view his paintings:

As I enjoy the first spring of my retirement and my participation in The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenges, I decide to recreate the bonnet in Manet's painting.  Le Printemps, or Spring, was created by Manet in 1881 and first presented at the 1882 Paris Salon.  It depicts actress Jeanne Demarsy in a floral dress and bonnet as an expression of spring.

In Spring 2014 I recreate the bonnet.

In Summer 2014 I create a gown envisioning what I believe the full gown to look like.

In the Fall of 2014 I recover a parasol and write this tutorial.

Lastly, I sew the gold silk gloves.
I'm thrilled to have recreated all the items from Manet's Spring and as happens to many of my costumes, all goes into storage waiting for the perfect opportunity to be worn.  And that opportunity comes in Spring 2015 when a group of costumers meet at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina during the highlight of the Biltmore Gardens season.

Dressed in complete Victorian costume, my friends Judith and Bill and myself tour Biltmore House and Gardens on a perfect spring day in April.

It is the perfect time to recreate the Manet painting!

What a journey over the past year!  I am thrilled to have followed this dream!  My continuing research reveals a sketch that Manet made entitled "young woman taking a walk holding an open umbrella". 

The sketch looks like the start of the Spring painting and I'm pleased to see that I envisioned the gown well.

The end of a wonderful project!  Wouldn't you agree?  The painting is in St Petersburg Russia and the chance of my ever seeing it are so slim.  Yet as I search the internet one day I discover a 6 November 2014 article in the Daily Mail that "Spring" has sold at Christie's in New York for $65.125 million.  The purchaser?  The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.  The painting was currently on view at the Getty Center, Museum West Pavilion, Gallery W204.  And where am I going in July?  To Los Angeles to teach and attend Costume College 2015.  I will be just an hour away!

The April event at Biltmore Estate also brought me the opportunity to finally meet Marie-Jo and Michel.  They came to North Carolina from California for the event and were an absolute joy to meet!  Then they offered me the opportunity that I could not have even imagined - they would take me to The Getty Museum to see the painting while I was in Los Angeles for Costume College!  !!  !!!  !!!! !!!!!

Oh my heavens and stars!  On Saturday afternoon of Costume College I've changed into my costume, Marie-Jo and Michel have brought the car and a picnic lunch, and we are off to The Getty Museum to see Manet's Spring!

As I write this post and see the long progression and incredible conclusion of this project, I'm in awe of the timing.  But more than that I am in awe of this painting and the breathtaking beauty created by such a master.  The painting truly takes your breath away as you stand before it.  I can now completely understand why it has endured and been treasured these years and am so thankful it is here for so many more people to enjoy!

While Manet had intended to create works of all four seasons he only completed "Spring - Jeanne Demarsy" and "Autumn - Study of Mery Laurent" before his death in 1883 at age 51.

Thank you to Judith and Bill!  Thank you to Marie-Jo and Michel!  I've enjoyed sharing this journey with all of you!

Is this the end of the journey?  No, as there are some surprises in the works!

Enjoy all of life's miracles,
love always,


  1. Miracle after miracle! The people visiting the museum must have loved seeing you there in that perfect outfit.

    1. So true, Carol! They got very excited and it caused quite a frenzy of photo taking! Even a gentleman coming off the elevator as we were leaving said "Le Printemps! You are the painting!"

  2. Thank you for all of your work and the persistence it took to finish all of the pieces. What a beautiful project, all pieces are lovely, but the dress is just perfect! How exciting to see the actual painting and to be photographed with it while wearing the dress. Kudos!

    1. MsSwan, it was so fortunate to find that fabric! Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with me!

  3. That's wonderful! You got to see it in person and wearing the costume!
    I have a thing for Albrecht Dürer. I think you've just inspired me to try and recreate one of the costumes in his paintings one day...

    1. Hana - Marmota, please do recreate and share! I would love to see your creation!

  4. P.S. I'm lucky that I live near Prague where one of his famous paintings resides, so I got to see it twice already. It's still incredible - more so because it's much older than the impressionists, and even there it's rather incredible that they survive for us to see! Seeing art in person is powerful stuff.

    1. How fortunate for you and even more reason to follow your inspiration! Seeing the painting in person was an incredible experience. It's beauty is just beyond words!