Manet’s ‘Botte d’asperges’ are probably the most famous asparagus in the world. The artist painted the delicious white- and lilac-tinged spears for the collector Charles Ephrussi in 1880 before invoicing him for 800 francs. Ephrussi was so delighted with them that he paid Manet 1,000 instead, to which Manet responded by sending a second picture. ‘One appears to have escaped your bunch,’ the painter quipped in his accompanying note. The new canvas featured a single asparagus.
Manet was in the last decade of his life when he began sending small paintings of fruit and flowers to his friends. While Ephrussi received asparagus, the muse Méry Laurent got apples, and artist Berthe Morisot violets, like those Manet had included in his portrait of her in mourning.