At the “Paris 1900” exhibition in April of this year, I admired this wall-sized painting of an elegant evening from days gone by. It was painted by Henri Gervex in 1909. The title is “Une Soiree au Pre Catalan.” It depicts guests at a celebrated restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne.
Some of them are recognizable: the duke of Talleyrand-Perigord and his rich American wife, Anna Gould. It must have seemed to these privileged people that there was no good reason that life as they knew it would not continue indefinitely. But in just a few short years, the First World War would wreak havoc on the lives of all, including the most privileged.
This painting is from the Musee Carnavalet in Paris, one of the stellar free sights of Paris. I have never seen it crowded. I’d head to the Carnavalet right now if I found myself in the summer crowds of Paris, having just read that so many people are picnicking on the grounds of the Louvre and the Tuileries that large rats are appearing in daylight to scavenge food. The hushed corridors and quiet galleries of the Carnavalet are housed in a Renaissance mansion that has its own history. A visit gives a glorious overview of the history of Paris. This particular painting will not be there right now, but anyone interested in art and history will find plenty of treasures to contemplate.
Join me next time for more explorations into the art and history of Europe!