It is a mood of reckless abandon. Home from the ball, the young lady has divested herself of her dress and lolls stark naked on a divan. On the floor lies a mask which – like the damsel’s conspicuously made-up face – still bears witness to the festivity. Blanche, who learned his trade from studying the old Venetian masters, created a modern Venus – complete with lapdog – with this large-scale nude. She unashamedly appeals to the beholder’s curiosity. A close friend of Degas, Manet and Renoir, Blanche was appreciated above all as a portraitist.
Arthur von Gwinner (1856–1931) had been living in Berlin for several decades by the time he gave this painting, which he had purchased in Paris, to the Städel in 1906. At the time, the banker was a board member of Deutsche Bank and dealing predominantly in foreign business. It is likely that he had inherited his passion for the arts from his grandfather. Philipp Friedrich Gwinner had been mayor of Frankfurt, a jurist and an art historian. His principal book, ‘Art and Artists in Frankfurt from the 13th Century until the Opening of the Städelsche Kunstinstitut’, was published in 1862.