We continue our journey of discovering Artinside Museum‘s augmented reality masterpieces. After exploring Vermeer’s masterpiece, ‘The Milkmaid,’ in the room dedicated to daily work activities, today we will move to another room in the first Pavilion. This room showcases artworks depicting scenes of Parisian life within cafes and nighttime theaters. I will be your guide on this adventure as we discover a painting by the French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, titled ‘At the Moulin Rouge.
Let’s step into the “Opera, Circus, and Parisian Cafes” room. We access the first Pavilion of Artinside Museum, focused on Everyday Life, and select the third panel from the augmented reality menu to enter the thematic room “At the Opera, at theCircus, at Cafe” Room
Keep your device in front of you and move slightly to the left to position yourself in front of the painting by the French artist Toulouse-Lautrec, titled “Al Moulin Rouge.” This artwork measures 123 cm in height and 141 cm in width.
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On October 6, 1889, two daring businessmen, Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, inaugurated an unprecedented dance hall on the hill of Montmartre. Its sign consisted of a faux windmill painted in red, a color that perfectly matched the atmosphere of the venue and made it visible even from a distance. Success was immediate, and this was also due to the extensive repertoire of dances and performances, which were considered quite daring at the time. Among these, the famous French Cancan stood out, an unrestrained dance in which the dancers energetically lifted their legs in the air, revealing their legs. Dressed in black attire, flared skirts, decorated waistcoats, and ruffled skirts, the Cancan dancers managed to enchant all the customers of the Moulin Rouge.
The artwork in front of you was painted around 1893 when the Moulin Rouge was at the height of its fame and was the most famous center of Parisian nightlife.
Inside the “Moulin Rouge,” spectators could enjoy the view of a spacious dance floor adorned with numerous mirrors. Additionally, a raised balcony surrounded the room, offering a panoramic view of the floor below.
The renowned painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had his studio not far from the Moulin Rouge, and he often spent his evenings inside the cabaret, in the company of friends and dancers. He was so attached to the venue that a small white marble table had been reserved for him. As you approach the augmented reality artwork, you can notice five people seated at this special table of Toulouse-Lautrec.
Carefully observing the people seated at the table, including three men and two women, you won’t immediately recognize the artist.
So, where is the artist’s portrait? If you shift your gaze to the background of the painting, following the diagonal line formed by the two gentlemen wearing bowler hats seated at the table, you’ll notice a tall, slender figure standing next to a gentleman with a large head beneath a bowler hat, considerably shorter. This second character is indeed Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the artist we were seeking within the painting.
Now, shift your attention behind the painter’s shoulders. You will notice a young woman easily recognizable by the low-cut back of her dress as she arranges her hairstyle in front of one of the mirrors in the room. She has both hands on her head, busy fixing her braids into a bun.
This young woman is La Goulue, the renowned dancer of the Moulin Rouge, famous for earning a whopping 3,750 gold francs per month, while her fellow dancers earned about 150 for two dances a day. Thanks to her spirited dances that ignited the enthusiasm of all Moulin Rouge customers, La Goulue had become a celebrity and even the star of the establishment’s advertising posters, designed by Toulouse-Lautrec himself, in which she was portrayed with her skirt raised and a gracefully extended leg.
Now, shift your attention to the table. The nocturnal companions of the artist depicted here include a photographer, a salesman/representative, and a publisher.
On the far left side of the table, near a pitcher and a glass filled with an orange beverage, you’ll find the publisher Edouard Dujardin. He is recognizable by his monocle, long reddish beard, soft hat, and walking stick.
The man with a beard and mustache next to him is the photographer Paul Sescau, who had his photographic studio very close to Place Pigalle. Sitting alongside him is Maurice Guibert, who was a representative for a well-known champagne company.
The two women at the table are paid escorts, and some have identified them as the Spanish dancer Marcarona and Jane Avril. The first lady, seated next to the publisher, has a heavily made-up face. The woman with her back to us, framed by orange hair, is Jane Avril. She is wearing a dark cape with a high collar and puff sleeves. On her head, she sports a striking hat with black and transparent side flaps and an ostrich feather plume. In those times, hats were considered an indispensable sign of female respectability, and their production employed as many as 2,400 milliners in the city.
The identity of the woman on the right side of the image remains a mystery. She gazes upwards toward the viewer, her face bathed in the greenish lights of the scene. Some have described her as Nelly C. or the dancer May Milton, but her true identity continues to be a subject of debate. The piece of canvas on which she is painted is an addition, as is the strip along the bottom that runs the entire width of the canvas, showing a wooden balustrade, a chair, and a black dress. It seems the painter wanted to extend the original format to capture the distinctive atmosphere of the Moulin Rouge even more effectively. The predominance of the color green in this part of the painting evokes the image of absinthe, a highly popular alcoholic beverage of the time, associated with the bohemian lifestyle.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, of aristocratic origins, was one of the most significant artists in late 19th-century Paris. He did not have the opportunity to lead a typical life due to two serious falls in his youth and a debilitating physical ailment resulting from consanguinity within his family (his parents were cousins), which left his lower limbs underdeveloped. As an adult, Toulouse-Lautrec stood at a height of only 1.52 meters (approximately 5 feet). Nevertheless, he became a celebrated artist who favored the quicker mediums of drawing and lithography over traditional painting. A frequent presence in the Montmartre scene, including cafes, theaters, brothels, and dance halls, his works depicted the hidden melancholy behind the glamorous façades. After a life marked by excesses, he passed away at the young age of 36.
Now that we have discovered some details of the artwork together, all that’s left for you to do is to download the Artinside Museum app and admire the artwork in augmented reality right before your eyes.