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A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

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Suzon

The model for the barmaid was a woman called 'Suzon'. Very little is known about her, except that she was indeed a barmaid at the Folies Bergère. It is a question of academic debate as to whether the character in the painting is not only a barmaid but also a prostitute. The look on her face is one of the most famous - and mysterious - in art. Here are just a few 'readings' of that look:

"the barmaid... appears before us more as a commodity similar in shape and objective appearance to the bottle on the counter than as a consumer" Carol Armstrong

"daydreaming" Anne Coffin Hanson

"tired and glum" Raymond Mortimer

"absent, weary, dispirited" Francoise Cachin

"detached, melancholy, distracted" Jonathan Jones

"withdrawn and cheerless" Alan Krell

"tired and blank" Hajo Duchtling

"a beautiful girl, truly alive, truly modern, truly 'Folies-Bergère' in the expression on her made-up face" Paul Alexis

" It is perfectly possible, in fact, to imagine the barmaid's face as belonging to a definite state of mind or set of feelings: that of patience perhaps, or boredom and tiredness, or self-containment. We might even have it be 'inexpressive', in the sense of the word that implies thetre is something being deliberately kept back, or that some mistake has been made about how best to signal what one is feeling. But the problem is that all these descriptions fit so easily and so lightly, and none cancels out or dominates the rest; so that I think the viewer ends by accepting - or at least by recognizing - that no one relation with this face and pose and way of oooking will ever quite seem the right one." T.J. Clark

The eye of the painter and the eye of the policeman
Jeanniot's Visit to Manet's Studio, January 1882
Duret on Manet

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Model for the barmaid of 'A Bar at the Folies-Bergère', 1881

(Musée des Beaux Arts, Dijon)

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