The Lady with Fans - Nina de Callias, Manet's model
Lying nonchalantly on a sofa, Woman with Fans, by Edouard Manet stares with curiosity and a hint of irony at the passing visitor. Dressed in oriental style (Algerian blouse and oriental slippers), posing against a background of Japanese screens, she looks just like the composite “figure of fantasy" which Manet intended, denying that this was a portrait. Again according to Manet, he found the image of this lady in the small literary revue of the time, the Revue du Monde Nouveau. Here, she poses as a “Parisian lady", the title of the engraving : in a black velvet dress enhanced with a strawberry, and wearing a hat, she is epitome of elegance. Her figure is slim, as is her face which assumes a pensive expression. A sonnet dedicated to Manet by Charles Cros, the director of the review, recounts the sitting without naming the model.
The painting was not exhibited in Manet’s lifetime; he kept it in his studio out of sight. In the 1884 retrospective dedicated to the artist one year after his death, the work was presented with the titleWoman with Fans. When the contents of his studio were sold that same year, she was bought by one of his favourite models, his sister in law, the painter Berthe Morisot. Her daughter donated it to the national museums in 1930. Since that time, Woman with Fans has been on public display.