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“Nana” by Édouard Manet

Nana by Édouard Manet

Nana by Édouard Manet

Nana by Édouard Manet shows a young woman who stands before a mirror with two extinguished candles; her face turned to the viewer. Her dress is incomplete.

She is wearing a white chemise, blue corset, silk stockings, and high-heeled shoes. The interior suggests that it is a boudoir. Behind the woman is a sofa with two pillows.

An elegantly dressed man sitting on the couch can be partly seen on the right of the painting.

The title and the many details suggest that the picture represents a high-class prostitute and her client. “Nana” was a popular assumed name for female prostitutes during the second half of the 19th century.

Painted in 1877, it was refused at the Salon of Paris because it was deemed contemptuous of the time’s morality.

French society was not prepared for such frank depictions of prostitution, and the critics did not see the artistic qualities of the work as they focused on the subject of the painting.

One of Manet’s defenders was Émile Zola, who, in 1880, published a novel of the same name as the ninth volume of Les Rougon-Macquart series.

It is also likely that Manet found inspiration in L’Assommoir by Zola in which the character of Nana.

Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet was one of the first 19th-century artists to paint modern life and was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

His early masterpieces, about 20 years earlier than this painting, caused much controversy and served as an influence for the young painters who would create Impressionism.

In the last two decades of Manet’s life, he develops his style that served as a significant influence on future painters.


  • Title:                    Nana
  • Artist:                  Édouard Manet
  • Medium:             Oil on canvas
  • Date:                   1881
  • Dimensions:        Height: 154 cm (60.6 ″); Width: 115 cm (45.2 ″)
  • Museum:             Kunsthalle Hamburg

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“Color is a matter of taste and of sensitivity.” 
– Édouard Manet


Photo Credit: Édouard Manet [Public domain]

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