Chloe | Jules-Joseph Lefebvre

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 but 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 ingenue, a nymph, a celebrity. She is Chloe, the famous nude portait which has graced the walls of the Young & 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-Joseph 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 Norman 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. Two 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, is presently refurbishing Chloe's home whilst Chloe has been enjoying popular acclaim on exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. While she is away from home, Chloe is 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.

The original block of land was bought in 1837 for £100 by John Batman, one of the founders of Melbourne. and was used as a girls' school. A hotel was later built on the site which, after several changes of ownership, was bought by two men who had been successful on the gold fields in New Zealand - Messrs Young and Jackson.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, another story was emerging. At the grand exhibition of 1880 held in the Exhibition Buildings, a nude painting, Chloe, by Chevalier Jules le Febvre had won a gold medal. When this painting was exhibited at the National Gallery in 1881, a scandal broke out. Chloe was much too brazen for the puritanical 'wowsers' of Melbourne society, and the trustees of the gallery were abused in the newspapers for allowing her to flaunt herself in the gallery - and on a Sunday afternoon!

Messrs Young & Jackson were eventually able to buy Chloe in 1908 and hung her above the bar in their hotel. Custom increased dramatically.

Young and Jackson's and Chloe have been inseparable ever since. Chloe was allowed a brief excursion recently. She was allowed out to hang in an exhibition of nudes. Where? At the National Gallery! She was removed in a rather undignified manner by a crane through the first floor window. But she has returned from that little outing, back to the bar now named after her.

Y & J's has become almost as famous a meeting place as 'under the clocks'. Many diggers during both world wars arranged to meet their mates afterwards at Young and Jackson's.

And Chloe still smiles down on them.

Chloe can be viewed in Young & Jackson's Hotel - 1 Swanston St Walk, Melbourne




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