The model for the famous painting of Chloe in Young and Jackson’s was actually called Marie. She was 19 at the time French artist Jules Lefebre painted her in 1875. Marie committed suicide in 1877 as a result of a failed love.
In 1883, the portrait was withdrawn from view at the National Gallery of Victoria after complaints about its nudity. The painting went on display in Y & J’s in 1909.
She has graced magazine covers, had wine named after her and poems written to her. She has experienced fame and adoration and has won high acclaim from critics. Her career began, like the many models after her, in Paris. She was created and moulded by a Master.
She is a Melbourne icon, mascot for the HMAS Melbourne, an extremely fine work of art, she is an ingénue, a nymph, a celebrity. She is Chloe, the famous nude portait which has graced the walls of the Young and Jackson Hotel since 1909.
Throughout her life, Chloe has kept company with artists, poets, wharfies, Prime Ministers and drunks, soldiers, sailors, celebrities, bushies, labourers and art connoisseurs. Her history involves transformation, death, intrigue, love, war, depression and passion.
Chloe was brought to life in Paris in 1875 by the artist Jules Lefebvre, one of the most respected and leading academic masters of the painted nude figure in the late 1800s. Marie, a young Parisian woman, modelled for Lefebvre's Chloe when she was around the age of 19. Of Marie there are many tales, but the most probable is that told by Lefebvre's contemporary and student, George Moore. Moore noted that she was a model who posed for several artists and, after throwing a party for her friends, spent her last money on poisonous matches, boiled these up, drank the concoction and died. Moore alludes that the reason for her suicide was love. It is believed that when Marie died she was about 21 years of age.
Chloe's debut at the Paris Salon - a showcase exhibition for the leading French academic masters and their prize works - was a raging success. Chloe and Lefebvre won the Gold Medal of Honour, the greatest official award to be bestowed on a French artist and the first of three gold medals Chloe was to win. In 1879 she was the central figure in the French Gallery at the Sydney International Exhibition and at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880, Chloe scooped the pool, winning both the highest awards and acclamation.
Chloe was purchased by Dr Thomas Fitzgerald of Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, for the princely sum of 850 guineas. In 1883 Dr Fitzgerald approached the National Gallery of Victoria and offered Chloe for extended exhibition while he visited Ireland for three years.
However, while Chloe had won the highest of critical acclaim, she had not yet won the hearts of the Melbourne people. With new Sunday opening times in effect and a naked woman at the Gallery, the Presbyterian Assembly worked themselves up into a frenzy of religious protestation.
Melbourne society found Chloe's presence in the Gallery quite scandalous. Meetings were held, letters were written, the Sunday Observance League and the Presbyterian Assembly had to be heard. The Argus newspaper was so inundated with letters of both complaint and passion that they dedicated a column solely to the issue of 'Chloe in the Gallery'.
Chloe only lasted three weeks in the Gallery before being withdrawn from exhibition and shipped to Adelaide where she was found not to be such scandalous company. On return to Melbourne Chloe remained with Dr Fitzgerald for a further 21 years causing scandal while hanging in his front salon. Passers by on the street could ellicit a view of Chloe, complaints arose and Fitzgerald was forced to move her, this time to the back of his house.
Upon Sir Thomas' death in 1908 Chloe needed a new home. This was provided by Mr Henry Figsby Young, the ex-gold digger, art collector, Irishman and entrepreneur of Young and Jackson fame who bought Chloe at Sir Thomas' estate auction for £800. She then graced the public bar of the Young and Jackson Hotel for the cultured viewing and criticism of a wholly new audience.
Chloe has kept soldiers company through two World Wars, a Korean War and a Vietnam War. During these times she has held a special place in the hearts of our soldiers, as witnessed on Anzac Day this year when more than 2,000 people went to Young and Jackson's to have a drink in her company. During the World Wars diggers came to drink with Chloe before being shipped out. Letters were written to her from the trenches of Turkey, France, and Papua New Guinea, swearing their true love and promising to return.
During World War II a crewman aboard a German luxury liner was accused in the US of being a spy. As an alibi he recalled that at the time of the offence he was in Melbourne. Remembering it well, he noted a railway station with a hotel opposite and a nude in the bar - case dismissed!
American GIs fell so in love with her during World War II that plans were made to abduct her. At this time one particular GI, before he went home, was so besotted with Chloe that he threw a glass of beer at her exclaiming that 'he would give her something to remember him by'.
In 1943, after this incident, Chloe underwent conservation work followed by a two-week exhibition at the Kozminsky Gallery as her first effort for charity. At sixpence a view Chloe raised money for returned servicemen's repatriation. She was a smashing success and raised £300.
In 1987 Chloe moved upstairs into her own salon. Five years ago Foster's Brewing was thrilled to acquire, through its Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, two of Melbourne's most famous and recognisable icons, the Young and Jackson Hotel, and Chloe.
Having put up with each other for almost 100 years, Chloe and Y&J's have become inextricably linked as part of Melbourne's heritage. The National Trust and Heritage Victoria decreed several years ago that they remain bound together forever. The Foster's Brewing Group, as custodian of this heritage, has refurbished Chloe's home, whilst Chloe had been enjoying popular acclaim on exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. While she was away from home, Chloe was again raising money, this time for Challenge: a cancer support network. Through the provision of a full range of recreational and support services, Challenge improves the quality of life of Victorian children and their families living with cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders.