• France, c. 1858
  • Oil on canvas
  • Inv. 395
  • Signed: Ed. Manet

Boy with Cherries

Édouard Manet

Behind the irreverent cheerfulness of the sitter, this portrait hides the tragedy of his fate. Alexandre, who washed Manet’s paintbrushes and occasionally posed for him, ended up committing suicide at the age of fifteen in the artist’s studio in rue Lavoisier. The episode also inspired Charles Baudelaire to write La Corde, a short story he dedicated to Manet, which was initially published in Le Figaro on 7 February 1864 and later published in the compilation Le Spleen de Paris.

This early work, which was inspired by Caravaggio and 17th-century Dutch genre painting, falls into the realistic tradition, with the stone parapet establishing the spatial definition of the composition. To the evident portrait, Manet associates another genre, a still life, while the cherries represent an allegory for the senses. Furthermore, there is an underlying concept of modernity in the representation of everyday life as the subject for the painting, a concept that follows the Baudelarian perspective of asserting contemporary reality. However, it seems likely that Manet repainted the boy’s hands, since they reveal the material and stylistic quality characteristic of his later works.

Eugène Manet; sale of the heirs of the Manet estate, 4–5 May 1884, no. 23; Durand-Ruel; Maurice Leclanché Collection. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Bernheim Jeune, 19 April 1910.

H. 65.5 cm; W. 54.5 cm

Rouart and Wildenstein 1975

Denis Rouart and Daniel Wildenstein, Édouard Manet. Catalogue raisonné. Lausanne/Paris: La Bibliothèque des Arts, 1975, vol. I, no. 18, pp. 38–9.

Paris 2000

Manet, les natures mortes, exhibition catalogue. Paris: Musée d’Orsay, RMN, 2000, pp. 72–5, 167, no. 8.

Sampaio 2009

Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, pp. 216–17, cat. 97.

Updated on 15 june 2022

Cookies settings

Cookies Selection

This website uses cookies to improve your browsing experience, security, and its website performance. We may also use cookies to share information on social media and to display messages and advertisements personalised to your interests, both on our website and in others.