'Chloe' - Queen of the Bar Room Wall Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Chloe' - Queen of the Bar Room Wall

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A shy French nude who spends her time hanging in Young and Jackson's (Y&J's to those in the know) - one of the most prominent bars in Melbourne, Australia - Chloe is a painting of a girl with a past full of controversy, love, death, suicide, ridicule, scandals, fame and beauty, not to mention a lot of beer.

The Painting

Chloe was painted in 1875 by Jules Lefebvre, arguably a master painter of the female nude. Born in Paris in 1836, he studied under Leon Cogniet, and later at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the premier French art school of the day. In 1855 he had his debut at the Salon (the official exhibition of the aforementioned art school - a competition of sorts) and in 1861 won the Prix de Rome1, and therefore a five-year scholarship to study in Rome. Most of the 72 paintings he exhibited at the Salon between 1855 and 1898 were of women.

The Girl

The truth about the model, a young French girl called Marie, is the source of much debate. She was only 19 years of age when she posed for the painting, and some say she and Lefebvre had a love affair, while others say he refused to love her. Another story is that he seduced both her and her sister. The one thing which seems to hold true in all stories is that she, at the age of 21, had a dinner party with all her friends and then downed a potion made from boiled match-heads (almost pure phosphorous) and died.


As part of an exhibition which showcased France in the late 1870s, Chloe travelled to Melbourne in 1880. The painting was then purchased by the surgeon Dr Thomas Fitzgerald (later to become a Sir) in 1882, and hung in his front room on St Kilda Road. When he went to Ireland for three years in 1883, he loaned Chloe to the Gallery of Victoria where she was put on display. The Gallery had only recently begun opening on Sundays, which meant that an audience was present who may have never seen 'art' before - there was quite a furore over the fact that a nude was visible on the Holy Day, and she lasted only three weeks before being packed up and shipped to Adelaide. Dr Fitzgerald reclaimed her on his return, although due to her great size she was visible from the street, and so caused complaints, therefore she was moved to the back room. Chloe remained in his possession until he passed away in 1908, when she was bought at auction by Mr Henry Figsby Young (of Young and Jackson's fame), an ex gold-digger and collector of art. She was hung in his pub2 along with all his other paintings, and survived each year as one by one they were sold off to pay the taxes.

Flinders Street Station, the main transport hub during both World Wars as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, is directly across the road from Young and Jackson's. Many nervous 17-year-old boys would quaff their last beer at the front bar while gazing up at Chloe before leaving for war - her name was used as a code word during campaigns, and letters were written from the trenches of numerous battlefields - men swearing to return to her. It is said that an American GI once stabbed her with a broken bottle, shouting that he would give her something to remember him by! She was the first port of call on the return to Melbourne, and remains popular with the diggers even today. ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day, on 25 April, sees Young and Jackson's literally overflowing with men, some who have come just for the beer and some who have come to revisit Chloe.


After a year-long absence due to the restoration work on Young and Jackson's3, Chloe is back in fine form. She no longer can face the street, but instead has a climate-controlled room of her own and a bullet-proof glass cover. Requests for souvenirs of the famous nude are not uncommon, and the pub is doing quite well out of the novelty gift business - they even have a beer named after her - the Naked Ale. She has been covered under the National Trust and Heritage Victoria since 1988, and cannot be separated from the pub which has been her home for nearly a century.

1The highest aim of young painters - something which would guarantee future success.2Which he and Thomas Joshua Jackson bought the same year she was painted - 1875.3Time she spent hanging in the National Gallery of Victoria, raising money for charity.

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