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April 21, 2017

Mid-Morning Open Thread

Gervex Rolla.jpg

Henri Gervex

This was sold by Sotheby's in 1984 for far more than expected, no doubt because of the marvelous brushwork on the lamp and the dress.

Their description is interesting, and worth a read. Here is a bit of it....

Taking as his inspiration the eponymous poem of 1833 by Alfred de Musset, Gervex transposes the narrative into fashionable contemporary Paris, signalled by the wrought iron railings and view of the Haussmannised cityscape beyond, the grand boulevard backdrop recognized by some viewers as the fashionable Boulevard des Italiens. Jacques Rolla, a well-born bourgeois, has decided to spend his final night with the prostitute Marion, having squandered his fortune on a life of debauchery. The scene depicts the morning after: while Marion lies asleep, Rolla broods on his fate and contemplates suicide by jumping from the window. The model for Marion is based on several women - the actress Ellen Andrée, a favorite of Renoir, Manet and Degas (she is the sitter in Degas' L'Absinthe of 1876) posed for the body, but demanded that a different model be used for the face.

That little comment about Paris being "Haussmannised" is a pomposity, signalling that the writer is one of the elite who knows who Baron Haussmann was. Except...every Parisian knows who he was, and it's not that big a deal. It's like a New Yorker knowing who Robert Moses was. So? He was an urban planner who changed some of NYC, some for the good and some definitely not. But it's a hometown detail, and not a signal of one's intelligence.

And in the "bourgeois" I get a whiff of Marxist dialectic, which deserves a whiff of grapeshot.

But I digress.

Manet, Degas, Stevens, the young, the old, everyone trooped in front of the canvas which was already famous before it entered the Salon…However, hardly had it been hung on the wall when the surintendant des Beaux- Arts, Turquet, gave the brutal order that it be removed on grounds of immorality, with the complicity of the Salon jury…that’s how an art dealer offered to exhibit Rolla at his shop on the Chaussée-d’Antin… I accepted, as you can imagine, with gratitude, and for three months there was indeed an uninterrupted procession of visitors with a queue of carriages backed up to the Opera.
-- Henri Gervex

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posted by CBD at 09:35 AM

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