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Painted in 1882, a year before his death, Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère is a beautiful and somewhat unsettling piece of art when you realise the reflections in the mirror don’t make sense.

‘This is not a realistic painting of the Folies-Bergère. Suzon did work there, but she posed for the painting in Manet’s studio, behind a table laden with bottles. He merged this image with rapid painted sketches he made at the Folies-Bergère. There is no attempt to make the image cohere: there is, as contemporary critics pointed out, an inconsistency to the relationship between the reflections in the mirror and the real things. The man in the top hat approaching Suzon in a sinister way in the top right hand corner of the mirror would in reality have to be standing with his back to us in front of the bar, and Suzon herself should be reflected in an entirely different place.’  The Guardian

A visit to the Courtauld Gallery is a must to see this masterpiece in person. When the painting was on loan to the Getty Center, the curators installed a mirror so that the visitor could ponder the inconsistencies.

In 1934, Ninette de Valois choreographed a ballet based on Bar at the Folies-Bergère, which was accompanied by the music of Emmanuel Chabrier who had  been a neighbour of Manet’s and had once owned the painting.

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