During his three-month stay in Trouville in 1865, Courbet attracted a following as a portraitist among the society women at this fashionable resort on the Normandy coast. He possibly encountered Joanna Hiffernan (born 1842/43), a “beautiful Irishwoman,” through his acquaintance with fellow artist James McNeill Whistler, who was also working in Trouville in 1865.
This image of Jo, Whistler’s mistress and model, although dated 1866, was likely painted in 1865, when Courbet wrote of “the beauty of a superb redhead whose portrait I have begun.” He would paint three repetitions with minor variations. Hiffernan was also the subject of Whistler’s monumental Symphony in White no. 1, below.
Hiffernan is also believed to be the model for Courbet’s infamous painting L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World).