Wednesday 16 October 2019

Mah Na Mah Na

Do you remember the Muppets' song Mah Na Mah Na? Great song which you can hear here.

Well, today's post has nothing to do with the Muppets or Mah Na Mah Na; but more to do with Manet Manet. Or, to be precise Édouard Manet.

Let us study Manet's painting "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe", also known as "The Luncheon on the Grass".

The first thing I noticed when I studied this wonderful oil on canvas, (this is arty talk), is that it can't have been much of a luncheon, (or déjeuner), since there's no sight of any French Fries or chocolate milkshake anywhere. What kind of picnic is this without French Fries? You would have thought that  Manet, being French, would have had some French fries, or escargots, or frogs legs in his luncheon. But no ... all I can see is a loaf of bread on the ground and I don't know what else in the basket. I think Manet missed a trick there, but never mind.

The second thing I noticed in this painting is the subtle use of colours and the masterful brush strokes. (That's more arty talk to show you that I am learned in these things).

And finally ... I noticed that we have here a naked lady having a picnic with two fully dressed men, whilst another half naked woman is having a wash in the river in the background.

That's an odd mise en scène I said to myself. (This means scenery in French). 

I asked myself. Why do we have a naked woman sitting nonchalantly totally naked next to two men  not so nonchalantly beside her?

At first I thought that it must have been very hot that day and she needed to cool down, but then, on reflection, I started to worry about any ants or insects that may be in the "herbe" in the vicinity. What if she got bitten in all the familiar places? By the look on her face she doesn't seem to mind.

I also noticed that the two men are happily talking to each other and totally ignoring the naked lady beside them; very uncharacteristic of most men I know. I doubt I would have behaved like that if I was posing for this painting for hours on end. Unless of course I was discussing last night's game of football on TV; then I would perhaps have ignored the naked lady ... NOT!

Intrigued by all this I researched the painting a little more.

I was surprised to discover that Manet' wife Suzanne Leenhoff posed as the naked woman, although the face on the painting is that of another model. Strange this. She did not mind sitting naked next to the two men for hours on end, as long as her husband does not paint her face in the painting.

Stranger still, the men sitting beside her are Manet's brother Gustave, and his brother-in-law Ferdinand Leenhoff - that is Suzanne's brother.

Talk about dysfunctional families. Would you pose naked with your close relatives sitting there fully clothed?

You can imagine the conversation as they prepared to sit for the painting.

"Hello sister, you've put on some weight lately. Never mind, Édouard will make you look good in the painting, I'm sure!"

"Why don't you two take off your clothes as well? Why just me?"

"It's a precaution, my dear ... a precaution just in case ..."

"Where are the French fries?" 

"Édouard ate them. The milkshake too!"

And there you have it friends. An expose of Manet's "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe".

Perhaps you'd like to add below snippets of conversation as you would imagine them whilst these people are posing to have their picture painted.


  1. Oh my word, Victor! I'd love to hear you speaking these thoughts aloud at some stuffy art gallery (whose name escapes this NON-art major). Can you imagine the look on the curator's face!

    Ya. I wondered about the ants, as well.

    1. The painting caused controversy at the time, Mevely. I find it odd that Manet's wife was happy to pose nude with the two men but did not want to be identified - hence the face of another model instead.

      God bless.

  2. Bow Wow Wow reenacted this for a photoshoot in the early 80's. Honestly, it all seems crazy to me. What does it mean?? Probably just a good reason to be seen. But the history of the original painting is bizarre. The French! ;-) sigh

    1. I did not know this was re-enacted for a photo shoot. A very odd scene. Some say it was a painting of opposites: male/female, nude/dressed, dark colours/light colours, men talking to each other/woman looking at you the viewer. Almost daring you. Asking "What's wrong? Have you never seen a naked woman before?"

      I think they had too much vino. Or is that Italian?

      God bless, Sandi.

  3. "Full house beats a flush, take off your coat!"

  4. Playing "strip poker" isn't that easy to win when one is playing the game with two male "card sharks" 😱

    God's Blessings Victor 💮

    1. Good point, although they seem un-interested.

      God bless you, Jan.

  5. Maybe his wife posed nude for him privately, then he added the gentlemen? It's a thought . . . And like Mevely, I'd love to see you at an art gallery discussing your unique and humorous take on this famous painting, Victor. LOL!

    1. I thought that could be a possibility. I read somewhere that the scene was indoors like in a studio, and not painted in real life outdoors. Which explains the lack of ants biting one's bottom. So it could be possible that he painted the scene separately - the men and then his wife. But then ... why paint his wife and then use a model for the face? Why not paint the model naked instead.

      I doubt I could talk about this painting in public. People don't take me seriously. I remember it was often the case when I was working in London.

      God bless you, Martha.

  6. Painters can be an odd bunch, it's not easy to tell what they have in mind when they are producing such a work.

    1. Too true. It's often not easy to tell what's on my mind. Right now ... a Guinness will do.

      God bless, Mimi.



God bless you.