Le Bal de l'Opéra, Paris 1886 by Henry Gervex ( French , 1852 – 1929 )

11:31:00 AM elyan 0 Comments

 Henry Gervex - Le Bal de l'Opéra, Paris , 1886
 Oil on canvas
H. 0,85 m; W. 0,63 m
Signed and dated Iower left: H. Gervex - 86

At the Opéra, the audience pit was cleared for dancing and the Opéra orchestra itself provided waltzes, mazurkas, and even the controversial cancan. Women dressed as glamorized stevedores, stage-y shepherdesses, or in any other costume that revealed more of their figures than street dress permitted, could dance with abandon, their reputations protected by small black domino masks that gave the allusion of anonymity. Men might dance, but mostly they watched and hoped to arrange a post-bal rendezvous. As the century progressed, what had begun as simple pre-Lenten entertainment for the city’ s students and working classes became a glamorous, distinctly Parisian phenomenon. In the 1850s, Gavarni drew pretty young seamstresses and tipsy art students collapsed after a bal in a grubby garret; when Manet painted the crowded old Opéra galleries in 1873, the mass of top-hatted gentlemen, outnumbering the young women four to one, included journalists and friends of the artist, even Manet himself. With Gervex’s Le Bal de l’Opéra in 1886, the popular appeal revolved around guessing what leading actress or society hostess was featured flirting with which banker or politician on the central balcony.

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