In early September 1867, Manet attended the funeral of Charles Baudelaire, writer and critic. Another attendee of the funeral remarked that many of Baudelaire’s circle were away from Paris on summer vacation, so that
“there were [only] about a hundred people in the church and fewer at the cemetery. The heat prevented many from following to the end. A clap of thunder, which burst as we entered the cemetery, all but drove away the rest.”
This unfinished canvas, found in Manet’s studio after his own death, is thought to depict Baudelaire’s funeral procession. Baudelaire had been a friend of Manet since shortly after the publication of the first edition of Les Fleurs du Mal in 1857. In sickening health, Baudelaire published a revised edition with more poems in 1861, and went to Brussels to give a series of lectures. There he had a severe stroke that would foretell his imminent demise, roughly two (miserable) years later on August 31, 1867 in the arms of his mother.
* The two had been joined in a prior death that inspired an artistic work: the suicide of Manet’s model found in the artist’s studio was the basis for Baudelaire’s poem “La Corde” (The Rope), which appeared in Petits poèmes en prose.