A notebook kept by Fantin’s wife is said to record the circumstances surrounding this picture. The sitter called herself Mme Leroy, a name the artist suspected was false; and she insisted on paying for her portrait in advance. She was accompanied to some of her sittings by an American named Becker, who also commissioned a likeness of himself from Fantin, dated the following year (Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Mass.). The couple’s full identities, and the nature of their relationship, remain unknown.
Inscription: Signed and dated (upper left): Fantin. 85
Amédée Pigeon, Paris (before d. 1905); [Tempelaere, Paris, after 1906–until 1910]; Bonjean, Paris (1910); [Van Wisselingh, Amsterdam, 1910; sold to MMA]
Paris. École Nationale des Beaux-Arts. "Éxposition de l'oeuvre de Fantin-Latour," May–June 1906, no. 59 (as "Portrait de Madame X," 1886 [sic]).
New York. Museum of French Art, French Institute. "Fantin-Latour: 1836–1904," 1932, no. 15 (as "Portrait of a Lady, 1885").
Vittorio Pica. L'arte mondiale alla VII esposizione di Venezia. Bergamo, 1907, ill. p. 203 [see Ref. Tempelaere 1965].
Adolphe Jullien. Fantin-Latour, sa vie et ses amitiés. Paris, 1909, p. 205, lists a picture called "Portrait de Mme Leroy" among the works from the year 1885.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Principal Accessions." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5 (May 1910), pp. 123–24, ill., as "Portrait of a Lady".
Madame Fantin-Latour. Catalogue de l'oeuvre complet (1849–1904) de Fantin-Latour. Paris, 1911, p. 123, no. 1196, as "Portrait of Madame X" and exhibited as no. 59 in the 1906 Fantin-Latour exhibition.
Royal Cortissoz. "The Charming Art of Henri Fantin-Latour: Examples of it at the French Museum." New York Herald Tribune (January 17, 1932), p. 9.
Ralph Flint. "Loan Exhibit of Fantin-Latour at French Museum." Art News 31 (January 16, 1932), ill. p. 7, erroneously dates it 1835.
Edward Alden Jewell. "In the Realm of Art." New York Times (July 17, 1932), art section, p. 12 X.
Julien Tempelaere. Fantin-Latour. 1965, unpaginated, catalogues the work and recounts the circumstances of its creation: the sitter was unknown to the artist and called herself Mme Leroy, an assumed name, paying Fr 5,000 for the work; an American, Mr. Becker, accompanied her to her sittings and also sat for his own portrait.
Henri Fantin-Latour 1836–1904. Exh. cat., Smith College Museum of Art. Northampton, Mass., 1966, unpaginated, in discussion of the Fantin-Latour portrait of Mr. Becker in the Smith College Art Museum, Northampton, Mass., repeats the anecdote of the circumstances of its commission and that of the portrait of "Mme X" or Mme Leroy, crediting Mme Fantin as the source of the story; remarks that the American painter Frank Boggs (1855–1927) saw the portrait of Mr. Becker at Hector Brame's [where it hung in 1910] and identified the sitter as his uncle.
The sitter of this portrait cannot be identified. A quotation from a notebook kept by Mme Fantin-Latour records the circumstances of the sittings and the fact that the artist believed that the name used by the sitter, Mme Leroy, was an assumed one. She was accompanied to some of her sittings by an American gentleman named Becker, who also commissioned a portrait of himself from Fantin-Latour.
In the 1906 exhibition in Paris of Fantin-Latour's works, the Museum's portrait was hung as a pendant to that of a man, presumably the portrait of Mr. Becker. The man's portrait, which is the same size as this one but dated one year later, is now in the Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts.