Eloise [unknown], fl. 1840-1858
Date of Birth:
Eloise or Héloise ('Fumette'), a milliner or 'grisette' in the Latin Quarter, was Whistler's model and mistress.
Fumette was the first of Whistler's mistresses in Paris. She used to carry around with her a little basket containing her crochet work and a volume of poetry by Alfred de Musset that she knew by heart. She wore her hair loose, which excited much comment, since women usually 'put their hair up' to go out in public. She was presumed to be a gypsy or bohemian, and not a member of respectable society.
Fumette and Whistler lived at a hotel on the rue St Sulpice. According to the Pennells, they were together for two years, although not always happily. On one occasion Fumette destroyed a cache of Whistler's drawings in a fit of anger, thus living up to her nickname 'the tigress'.
Fumette posed for several of Whistler's etchings, including Fumette 012, Fumette standing 059, Fumette's Bent Head 058 and possibly Venus 060. She may also have been the subject for Reclining lady m0214, Seated seamstress with male companion m0288 and r.: Fumette; v.: Dancing clowns m0289.
As Whistler wrote to Fantin-Latour some years later 'Je connais déja la rencontre de vous deux avec Heloise et son anecdote! de quoi veut elle se venger!' [nb. Translation, 'I already know about the meeting between you two and Heloise and her anecdote! She wants her revenge!'#08039] Fumette's desire for 'revenge' suggests that they did not part particularly amicably.
Following her relationship with Whistler, Fumette lived with a musician and even later travelled to South America where she set up as a modiste.
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Mansfield, Howard, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-Points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Chicago, 1909; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; MacDonald, Margaret F., Susan Galassi, Aileen Ribeiro and P. de Montfort, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003.