Young Woman Powdering Herself
This is a portrait of Madeline Knoblock, Seurat's mistress. There is an atypical squalidness about this canvas, which could almost be seen in a gypsy wagon. Instead of the vase with flowers seen between the two panels of the folding mirror on the wall, Seurat had first painted his own portrait. When a friend who saw it told him it made him look silly, Seurat covered his face with the flower pot.
As for the plump model, she brings to mind the circus and carnival people and the music-hall artistes Seurat was seeing so much of at the time (he often went to the Gaite Rochechouart and the Eden Concert). Perhaps Seurat wanted to show us his lady friend in her habitual surroundings- corseted like a traveling player, dressed in organdy, with heavy bracelets and a pink hair-ribbon of the kind we see attached to the round mirror on that horrible little table.
The painting belonged to Madeline Knoblock. It is interesting to compare it with the drawing The Artist's Dressing Room of about 1887, in which we find this same atmosphere of backstage at a carnival or circus. Of all the critics who have written on Seurat, only Roger Fry expressed surprise at the model's ``grotesque dishabillé.''
Thanks to the BMW Foundation, the WebMuseum mirrors, partners and contributors for their support.