Provenance: the Henri M. Petiet collection, with the HMP wetstamp on the reverse (not cited in Lugt)
Firstly, this exceptional fifth state impression is of the utmost rarity. Wilson-Bareau records only one known proof (see the 1978 Berès catalogue and the 1983 Manet RMN exhibition catalogue), that of the Moreau-Nelaton collection, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale*, Paris, printed in a rich bistre on Chine volant, whereas the present impression is in a luxurious black.
The present impression, predating the 1863 edition, is not to be confused with the late 7th state, that of the letter effaced, impressions of which invariably show traces of the old address, as well as significant wear to the aquatint, the fine details of the face and hair, as well as the rich dark zones along the waistband of the skirt, not to mention the complete lack of burr on the drypoint retouches.
This fine print, an adaptation of Manet's renowned painting that provoked scandal in 1867, is moreover the sole testimony of the picture's original conception with a unified and neutral background, which was modified, according to Tabarant, to a more theatrical decor "on the advice of his friends."
Furthermore it should be noted that this print, as Pierre Daix (1983) has remarked, is more than a simple popularisation or "scholarly" reproduction of the work, but rather a means of controlling his painting by a "change in medium." In short, Manet reinvents a vision of his art through graphic technique.
* We have had the opportunity of examining the BN impression, which conforms closely with the present proof, especially as regards the quality of the fine-grain aquatint applied in the third state, the extremely delicate hairline incisions on the index finger of the right hand and the base of the fan that appear in the fourth state, and the drypoint retouches on the pendant pompons on either side of the skirt that characterise the "definitive" fifth state rework.