Calvé (actually Rose Emma Calvet) was born on 15 August 1858 in Decazeville, Aveyron, was a French operatic soprano and probably the most famous French female opera singer of the Belle Epoque. She first sang Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, in the autumn of 1893. She worked in New York at the Met from 1893-1904, and at the Metropolitan Opera Company 1907-1908. She then retired, but gave concerts until 1918. In March 1910 she married Mr. A. Gaspari. Her home was Chateau de Cabrieres, Aguessac, Avevron, France. She died in Montpellier on 6 January 1942.
A. Gallus, Emma Calvé: Her Artistic Life, New York, 1897
The otherwise unreliable review in Town Topics, March 18, 1897, specifically says the picture exhibited was done in pastel, so it was not the oil painting from 1894 that was exhibited then. According to The Globe, November 26, 1904 Muller-Ury’s picture is described as a ‘cleverly executed sketch’ of Calvé although it adds ‘…a glance at the catalogue is necessary to establish the identity of the sitter.’ Town & Country, December 3, 1904, reported that ‘Emma Calvé’s face peers out naughtily from green draperies in a spirited sketch in pastel,’ which can only refer to this picture.
The picture was evidently hung in the artist’s studio for many years as it appeared in the corner of a photograph of the artist in his studio published in The New York Herald, Sunday, April 22, 1923, p. 24, ‘Painter of Popes is this New York Artist’.
Since the pastel has clearly been cut down at the top, probably removing Calvé’s name as the base of the letters which may have spelled her name in the artist’s handwriting are now visible, it has at some point been removed from its original frame.
It was professionally conserved by Sally Esdaile in 2012.