L’Amazone (c.1855-1859)

Courbet, Gustave (1819-1877)

L’Amazone (Woman in a Riding Habit)
Oil on canvas, 115.6 x 89.2 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This painting of a horsewoman (in French, amazone) was first observed in Courbet’s studio in the late 1850s by the artist and critic Zacharie Astruc (1833–1907). He did not provide the sitter’s name, and her identity has never been confirmed. The artist Mary Cassatt admired this picture as “the finest woman’s portrait Courbet ever did.” What very likely began as a portrait has become emblematic of the independent modern woman. Women riding horseback were still a rare sight, and for a woman to ride unaccompanied by a man was considered scandalous. (MET)