It has been a long day. She looks bored. She has seen all of these entertainments to often. Her name is Suzon. She worked in a bar or nightclub called Follies-Bergère. It was a place known for its decadence, even for a Parisian nightclub. She is serving drinks and possibly herself. Female staff of these nightclubs were often also prostitutes. She is standing in front of a mirror. And in that mirror we can see the club. There is a balcony in the background. Some people are leaning on the banister, others are using opera glasses to look at a performance outside our field of vision. A lot must be going on, because no-one is looking at the trapeze artist who is dangling above them. You can just see her feet on the left side of the painting. On the right side we see the back of the woman reflected in the mirror. She appears to be talking to a man right in front of her, but that doesn’t make sense. That man should then be blocking our view, standing between us and Suzon, but he isn’t. Luckily many people have devised theories as to how this could be, even going as far as reconstructing the scene with mirrors and all. It would take to long to explain their methods and findings here, but suffice it to say that it is possible that the man is standing elsewhere while his reflection appears in front of Suzon. This was Manet’s last large painting and one of the very few that was accepted for the Salon. And if you were to ask me, it is his most ingenious painting.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Manet, 1882, Courtauld Gallery, London.
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