The art patron Charles Ephrussi (1849 –1905), one of the Parisians on whom Proust based the character Swann, was deeply appreciative of contemporary painting, and agreed to buy from Edouard Manet the delightful still-life, topmost above, for 800 francs. So great was his pleasure in ownership, however, that he paid the artist 1000 francs for it.
Not one to miss the chance for a witty flourish, Manet swiftly sent Ephrussi a smaller painting, of a single asparagus, with a note to say that one had slipped from the bunch.
Both paintings may be viewed by the public, but not together. The mother painting is in the Walraff Museum in Cologne, the solitary asparagus in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.Top: Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883). Bunch of Asparagus, 1880. Oil on canvas. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Cologne, Germany Bottom: Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1905) One Asparagus, 1880. Oil on canvas, the Musee D’Orsay, Paris, France Elatia Harris is a writer and consulting editor in Cambridge, Mass. She is most often at work on books and articles about food, wine and travel. Contact her at elatiaharrisATgmailDOTcom or via text at 617-599-7159.