On July 29, 1888, Vincent van Gogh wrote his younger brother Theo, an art dealer in a Parisian gallery, that “if you know what a ‘mousmé’ is (you will know when you have read Loti’s Madame Chrysanthème), I have just painted one. It took me a whole week…but I had to reserve my mental energy to do the mousmé well.” Van Gogh’s literary source was a popular novel from the period, whose story of a French man’s affair with a Japanese girl reflected the French fascination with Japanese culture. One of the book’s protagonists, a young, pretty Japanese girl, was called a mousmé in the author’s parlance, which Van Gogh took as his inspiration for this portrait of a young Provençale girl.
"La Mousmé" is in the Gallery’s collection: http://1.usa.gov/1d6Tf6a
Vincent van Gogh, “La Mousmé, ” 1888, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, 1963