A few years ago I decided to show a 'young man about town' (the only-just-met son of a friend of mine) some of Melbourne's famous sights. Now I hasten to add that I was not being a - I think they're called cougars - I just thought that as we were en route to the National Gallery International Collection to see the Monet Exhibition we would just pop in to see Chloe at the infamous Young and Jacksons pub on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets.
|Young and Jacksons Hotel (wikipedia)|
And what a corner it is with the Flinders Street Railways Station, Federation Square, Young and Jacksons (with Chloe) - and just to sober up the area St Paul's Cathedral! Now I need to admit here that although I had heard a lot about Chloe I hadn't actually seen her up close and personal. So acting as a 'tour guide' we swept into the hotel and up the stairs only to be confronted by a very nude - although rather beautiful - Chloe.
|The nymph-like Chloe|
What was I thinking? What was he thinking? I was mortified as I tried to carry off this embarrassing situation. I couldn't get out of the room fast enough as the 'young man about town' lingered over the painting!! I think the message here is - do your homework before you go!
However I do encourage you to pop in to see her if you're passing. After all she's a Melbourne icon. And in the right company there would be time to have a drink and 'enjoy her'!
Chloe was painted by French artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1875. It hung in the National Gallery of Victoria in 1883 for just three weeks before being withdrawn due to the uproar it created - especially by the Presbyterian Assembly! Young & Jacksons purchased her for 800 pounds. Apart from being damaged by an American serviceman throwing a glass of beer at her she has remained in the bar to host Prime Ministers, artists, poets, drunks, soldiers, sailors, celebrities, bushies, labourers and art connoisseurs - and 'young men about town' with blushing older tour guides!
All that is known about Chloe is that she was a young 19 year old Parisian artist’s model named Marie. Sadly two years after modelling for the painting she boiled a soup of poisonous matches and after drinking it she died. It is thought the reason for her suicide was unrequited love.
And so she remains as a Melbourne icon - albeit one with its own scandalous history - to grace the hotel built on land first purchased by the 'founder' of Melbourne John Batman in 1837. A visit that bought an uprepared blush to my face.
C'est la vie!