When I wrote, yesterday, about having lunch at Young and Jackson’s Hotel, my good mate and Vietnam Veteran Buddy, Ken, was most disappointed that I didn’t include a photo that he took of me with Chloe. He told me that I looked very happy in this photo and I told him that I always looked happy in the company of naked women.
Here is the story of Chloe (with thanks to Young and Jackson’s web site).
Chloe 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 art critics. Her career began, like many models 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 a nymph and a celebrity and has graced the walls of the Young and Jacksons pub since 1909. Throughout this time Chloe has kept company with artists, poets, wharfies, Prime Ministers, soldiers, sailors, celebrities, labourers, drunks and art connoisseurs.
Chloe was brought to life in Paris in 1875 by the artist Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, a very respected master who specialised in painting nude figures in the late 1800s. The model for this painting was a young woman named Marie.
She posed for several artists and is recorded as throwing a party for her friends and then spent her last money on poisonous matches. She apparently boiled these up, drank the concoction and died. Apparently her suicide was a result of an issue related to love.
Chloe’s debut was at the Paris Salon – a showcase exhibition for the leading French academic masters and their prize works She 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 that 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 – about $1,760.
In the late 1800’s Sunday trading for hotels was introduced. At this time, Chloe was loaned to the National Gallery of Victoria and with both of these events – more time for drinking and a naked woman at the Gallery, the Presbyterian Assembly worked themselves 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 so scandalous. On return to Melbourne Chloe remained with her private owner, Dr Fitzgerald, for a further 21 years causing further scandal while hanging in his front room. Passers by on the street could see a view of Chloe, complaints arose and Dr Fitzgerald was forced to move her to the back of his house.
Upon Dr Fitzgerald’s 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 hotel fame. He bought Chloe at Sir Thomas’ estate auction for 800 pounds. She then graced the public bar of the Young and Jackson Hotel for the cultured viewing and criticism of a wholly new type of audience.
On display in the bar, Chloe has kept soldiers company through two World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. During these times she held a special place in the hearts of our soldiers. On Anzac Days, more than 2,000 people had 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!
Many Americans fell so in love with Chloe 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 Pounds.
In 1987 Chloe was moved upstairs into her own salon and is now an iconic part of Melbourne.