December 2010: Édouard Manet „Pertuiset, Lion Hunter”

Published on: 03 / 11 / 2010

Authors of this entry:
  • Magdalena Palica

The large-scale portrait “Pertuiset, Lion Hunter” had been executed in 1881, about two years before the painter died. Manet, who had been striving within his whole live, for appreciation for his work by the Paris jury, had gained it only owing to the presented picture, which brought him the long-awaited medal. Eugène Petruiset, immortalized by Édouard Manet, was an extremely quaint person that had inspired many authors (mostly Jules Verne had evoked him in his novelette entitled “Ten Hours of Hunt”). In 2008 that buccaneer became protagonist of a novel by Oliver Rolin, in which the author dedicated lots of verses to the friendship between the portrayed and the artist.

Petruiset was a globetrotter and inventor. During his excursion to South Africa and America he had particularly delighted in hunting beasts of prey, which he boasted of in the Paris salons. He belonged to Manet’s admirers and owned in his private collection a few canvas paintings by the artist, who in 1877 had already started inviting him to his studio, in order to paint his portrait. Petruiset imposed upon those invitations three years later. The portrayed has been immortalized in scenery of Manet’s garden, in which the large silhouette of a felled lion appears ridiculous. Ironical audience’s laugh had been also raised by the German shooting suit that was more frequently seen in Schwarzwald than on plateaus of Tanzania, and especially by the Tyrolean deer-stalker on the head of a punch figure of a Frenchman. The painter’s signature as well, place on a tree-stock, reminding the lovers’ monograms cut in bark, had caused sneer at the painting (a caricature taunting that fragment of the painting appeared in “Le Journal amusant”). Some Manet’s contemporaries, among them Renoir for instance, claimed theta the artist had intentionally exposed the model’s comicality. Oliver Rolin had evoked that woof in his book, having written: “Petruiset had orated while spitting: about an expedition he had been preparing to the Fire Land, about wild man-eaters, about progress of the humankind to the praise of fatherland, about civilization by the world’s end, about his vocation to enlighten the world. Manet goes on listening, amused by that lunatic rodomontade. Too bad, one can’t paint the words. But instead – Manet is thinking – I can paint the mouth uttering these words. Truly Petruiset is reminds me a gnu, i.e. an ox, a deer and a horse in tandem. A gnu that strikes a lion would be ridiculous. I will paint vulgarity once more, but not tenderly, as I had painted a beer-drinker; I will portray Petruiset in such way, to expose his striking comicality.” [Oliver Rolin, “Un chasseur de lions]. Independently of numerous damnations of the depictive rank, the artistic value of the painting had never been discredited and actually owing to them the artist received the desired honor.

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