Manet frequently gave these still lifes to friends or to people he wished to impress. For example, upon receiving payment from the collector Charles Ephrussi for Une botte d’asperges, the artist sent him as a gift a still life of a single asparagus “to add to the bunch” (Denis Rouart et Daniel Wildenstein, op. cit., no. 357). In this way these gentle yet vibrant images became statements of Manet’s close relationship with their recipients, especially when he embedded them in the form of letters. As George Mauner writes, “these illustrations of flowers and of fruit in watercolor speak, in the end, more than hundreds of words" (translated from the French, Dr George L. Mauner, Manet, les natures mortes (exhibition catalogue), Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2000, p. 128).
The majority of Manet’s letters are in museum collections, and it is extremely rare that they come to the market. While in certain letters the text is more elaborate than in others, the present sheet serves as a delicate, singular marker of time and place:
9 Oct 1880.
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