Woman Reading | 1879/1880 | Édouard Manet
This post combines three of my favorite things: reading, art, and fashion. I love this fashionable woman sitting in a Parisian cafe with a beer by her side and a magazine in hand. I'd love to be her - just replace the beer with a glass of wine and the magazine for a historical fiction novel and we'd be all set (perhaps The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams or The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis?) Rather than giving this woman a nice novel to read, Manet chose to paint her with an illustrated magazine.
So what she might be reading? She is sitting in a café so it is likely she is reading a periodical provided by the establishment for the reading pleasure of their clientele. A popular French fashion magazine in the 19th Century was La Mode Illustrée.
La Mode Illustrée was first published in 1859. It was considered one of the most important fashion magazines in the late 19th century through the 20th century. This was the first magazine to publish weekly in order to keep readers up-to-date on the latest fashions. Similar to fashion magazines today, La Mode Illustrée included fashion illustrations as examples of appropriate dress for various occasions as well as literary works and articles.