This delightful, tiny painting is a subtle token of thanks and admiration from the artist
to his sitter. With characteristic wit, Manet has inscribed a folded note to "Mlle Berthe,"
and symbolically placed beside it a red-lacquer fan and a small posy of violets.
Frequently it has been said that because Berthe wore violets in her corsage in the
ravishing 1872 portrait, this small still-life/letter/bouquet was also painted
that year. Yet the red-lacquer fan is the same that Morisot holds in Le Balcon, painted
Manet's ten portraits of Berthe Morisot extend from 1868 to 1874. After her marriage
to Manet's younger brother Eugene in December 1874, they ceased. They can be compared
to photographs of her, one of 1869, the other probably of 1875. A print
of this latter photograph actually belonged to Adele d'Affry Colonna, Swiss-born artist
who exhibited under the name of Marcello (1836-79). Manet's portraits can be compared
to the large (168 x 115 cm) but unfinished picture of Morisot painted by Marcello in
1875. Wearing a pink decollete evening dress, and holding
a fan, Morisot appears more overtly feminine than in any of Manet's portraits, yet
strangely that haunting, indefinable bond that existed between Manet and his future
sister-in-law is wanting.