Manet is known to have made two more pictures of Laure over the space of 12 months, beyond the notorious Olympia. In Children in the Tuileries Gardens (1861–62) we see a Black nursemaid in the rightmost side of the painting amongst her employer’s family, an everyday scene for anyone strolling through the Tuileries potentially on their way to the Louvre. Four elaborately dressed children meander around the park whilst the smallest of them sits in front of Laure, who is relaxed, under the shade of a tree. And in La négresse (Portrait of Laure), 1863, broad brushstrokes of deep-brown makeup around her round face and neck sit against a deep olive background, while the rest of her body is shrouded in a plain off-the-shoulder dress. Her natural hair is covered by a bright headwrap. Laure’s portrait reads as a study rather than a finished painting, but despite its blurred lines, the focal point is unmistakable: the smile on her face. Dated late 1862, a note in a book belonging to Manet describes a model as “Laure, trés belle négresse” (Laure, very beautiful Black woman).

Manet’s brief but pointed fixation on Laure involved him depicting her not as the exotic other but an individualized member of the French working-class in a small, visible, but marginalized Black French community. We will never know enough of Laure’s complete story, but she has now, at least, secured a concrete place in art history, and been rendered as an autonomous person, by Murell. As the curator put it in a recent interview, “I wanted to make clear that Laure wasn’t an imagined figure. She’s a representation of the racial reality of 1860s Paris. I wanted to show that she is occupying one of several social roles that free black Parisians occupied at this particular moment.”