Chloe is a beautiful nude that has graced both the Public Bar and Salon of the Melbourne hotel, the Young & Jackson. She is also a central piece of Melbourne iconography, the mascot for the HMAS Melbourne, notorious, celebrated, and an exquisite example of Lefebvre’s style.
Chloe was painted by the leading 19th century nude figure artist Jules-Joseph Lefebvre and posed for by the famed Parisian model, Marie. She debuted at the Paris Salon of 1875, a showcase exhibition for the leading French academic masters. Chloe was an overnight sensation, garnering Lefebvre the Gold Medal of Honour, the highest official award bestowed upon a French artist. This success was followed by more acclaim as she featured as the central figure in the French Gallery at the Sydney International Exhibition, and then at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880. On both occasions, she claimed the highest honours, and a growing group of admirers.
Chloe was then purchased by a Melbourne doctor, Sir Thomas Fitzgerald, for the sum of 850 guineas - a small fortune at the time. Chloe had a small rest from public life until Fitzgerald loaned her to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1883 while he was on an extended visit to Ireland, causing the second sensation of Chloe’s career.
While she was recognised by the critics as superb, the general public of Melbourne was scandalised by the open display of a nude woman in a public place. Her most vehement opposition came from the Presbyterian Assembly, who were scandalised that she would be on view on Sundays. Protest meetings, letters and sermons followed. The Argus newspaper was so inundated by comment those who loved or hated her, that “Chloe in the Gallery” became its own column. After a stormy three weeks, Chloe was withdrawn from public exhibition in Melbourne, and sent to Adelaide.
Following Fitzgeralds return to Melbourne, Chloe remained in his private home for 21 years. At first she scandalised passers by who could see her through the front windows of his salon; Fitzgerald was forced to move her to a more private area of the house.
Upon Fitzgeralds death, Chloe was purchased at auction for £800 from his estate. Her new home was with outspoken Irishman Norman Figsby Young, an ex-prospector turned art collector, and Publican of the Young & Jackson. It was here that she reached her widest audience, and cult following of fans, as she graced the Hotel Bar.
Chloe holds a special place in the hearts of the servicemen who have passed through Melbourne. Soldiers of many nations have drunk with and saluted to her on the way to both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam. Letters have been written to her from the desperate hells of Turkey, France and Papua New Guinea, each man promising to return to her, and professing their true love. American GIs were so besotted by her, that plans were made to spirit her away. So beloved of the troops is she that this year on Anzac Day, 2000 people reputedly went to “have a drink with Chloe."
As Chloe has lived in the Young & Jackson for nearly 100 years, and they have become a central icon of true Melbourne culture together, the National Trust has now declared that they must remain together in perpetuity. However, she still takes part in charity work at National Gallery exhibitions outside the Hotel, most recently raising money for cancer support networks.
In 1987 Chloe was moved upstairs into her own Salon, named for her, as the Young & Jackson was bought by Fosters Brewing. Here fine food and drink can be had in the elegantly chic surroundings of this Melbourne Grande Dame.
For those of you who would like to see her, she can be visited at http://www.nouveaunet.com/chloe/ and also at her home of http://www.youngandjackson.com.au/frameset.asp?section=chloe