Yet Symphony in White, also named The White Girl, shows a young woman very well dressed, without any nudity. In contrast to the long white gown, the fact that she is standing on a wolf hide whose mouth is wide open is an aggressive symbol of lost innocence.
The white girl is Jo, Whistler's mistress. Aged about 20 years, she has a strong personality that does not fear scandals. This beautiful young Irish woman with abundant Venetian red hair is admired by all the friends of the artist.
In 1864 Courbet uses a thick impasto which highlights the flesh and will excite Lucian Freud. The logical outcome of his art would be to show the heterosexual act but he does not dare. Continuing after his Baigneuses on the theme of the couples of women, he prepares a scene with two life size female nudes titled Vénus et Psyché which is of course rejected by the Salon.
In this painting 145 x 195 cm destroyed in Germany during the Second World War, the red haired woman who sleeps while her companion is approaching is Jo, whose figure was painted by Courbet perhaps from photography or memory.
On October 31 in New York, Christie's sells a 57 x 70 cm oil on canvas which is a preliminary study for the red haired woman of Vénus et Psyché. It is estimated $ 3.5M, lot 8. Please watch the very short video prepared by the auction house.
In 1866 during an absence of his lover, Jo comes to pose in the Parisian studio of Courbet. She appears as one of the nude entwined women in Le Sommeil, the masterpiece of Lesbian art. Whistler does not accept this new role of a cuckold and they separate. She is perhaps also the young woman of L'Origine du Monde, painted in the same year for the same customer.