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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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Mery Laurent

The woman in the yellow gloves in the balcony is Mery Laurent, a model, friend and lover of Manet. The Irish novelist George Moore knew them both.

"...what is any intellect compared with a gift like Manet's?... I remember his studio, and the tall fair woman like a tea-rose coming into it: Mary Laurant [sic]! The daughter of a peasant, and the mistress of all the great men of that time - perhaps I should have said of all the distinguished men. I used to call her toute la lyre.

The last time I saw her we talked about Manet. She said that every year she took the first lilac to lay upon his grave. Is there one of her many lovers who brings flowers to her grave? What was so rememberable about her was her pleasure in life, and her desire to get all the pleasure, and her consciousness of her desire to enjoy every moment of her life. Evans, the great dentist, settled two thousand a year upon her, and how angry he was one night on meeting Manet on the staircase. In order to rid herself of her lover she invited him to dinner, intending to plead a sick headache after dinner... She must go and lie down. But as soon as her guest was gone she took off the peignoir which hid her ball dress, and signed to Manet, who was waiting at the street corner, with her handkerchief. But as they went downstairs together whom should they meet but the dentist qui a oublie ses carnets. And he was so disappointed at meeting his beautiful but deceitful mistress that he didn't visit her again for three or four days... Mary was beautiful, but she liked one to love her for her wit, to admire her wit, and when I asked her why she did not leave Evans, the great dentist, she said, 'That would be a base thing to do. I content myself by deceiving him.'"

George Moore, Memoirs of my Dead Life, Heinemann, London 1915

Friends
The Loving Husband

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Portrait of George Moore, 1879

Manet (Metropolitan Museum, New York)

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Autumn, Portait of Mery Laurent in a Brown Fur Cape, 1881

Manet (Musee des Beaux-Arts, Nancy, France)

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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, detail

Manet

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