The painting was painted in 1868, as Manet painted his wife Suzanne Manet in their home. Manet’s wife was a Dutch pianist as illustrated within the photo, as served as Manet’s muse at times. Suzanne Manet was initially hired by Edouard’s father in 1851 as a piano teacher for Manet and his brothers. However, Suzanne and Edouard had quickly developed a romantic relationship upon entering into their twenties. Upon moving out of Edouard’s parents home, he and Suzanne had gotten married and had a son, all while Edouard kept their relationship a secret and discreet from his father.
There has also been an immense amount of speculation that Suzanne used to be Eduard’s father’s mistress, creating an array of conflict. As Manet held his wife as the muse of his painting, the piece offers a glimpse into the life the couple carried together. Suzanne is seated in a dark chiffon dress upon a stool, playing the piano and she stares off onto the music notes. The muse is seated on a white stool, playing a dark brown wooden piano.
The relationship within the household was artistic as Suzanne’s piano background alongside Edouard’s painting allowed for an intellectual curiosity between the two. Suzanne’s face within the painting seems to be incredibly in tuned within her work, suggesting perhaps she was actually playing the piano while Manet painted her. Manet had painted the model’s face in detail, highlighting the shades of pink on her cheeks and the excess weight under her chin.
Suzanne’s usually light brown hair colour has been altered within the painting to a darker brown colour, blending into the shades of her dress. The walls in the background showcase the Victorian era style within the home, with classic white walls and discrete elements of gold detailing adding structure. In the top right corner of the painting, the viewer is able to witness an immense amount of gold decorations, suggesting that Edouard was able to finance his family’s needs while painting.
The emotion behind the painting holds a gloomy feel to it, as the colours suggest a melancholic emotion Manet felt while painting his wife. The dark history behind their relationship is illuminated through the photo, as the reason behind the secrecy in their relationship was never revealed. Manet incorporated a blend between detailed techniques to showcase detail throughout the work, alongside his transition into impressionism, blending shades in together.