At its most straightforward, La Loge is a portrait of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s favorite model, Nini, and a sumptuous celebration of the culture, style, and up-to-the-moment fashion for which Paris was famous. Ah, but things are never so simple!
To the contemporary viewer, Nini looks every bit the grande dame, elegantly adorned in pearls and an ermine cloak. She holds little golden opera glasses in one appropriately gloved hand and a fan and lace-edged handkerchief in the other. The dress itself would have been exactly à la mode, a striped over-dress made for the opening night of a performance. A lovely pink flower accents her hairstyle, and another peeks out at the center of her bodice, drawing the eye to her fashionable décolletage, newly possible after advances in corset manufacturing.
But in fact, Nini was a girl from Montmartre, a model with the nickname of “gueule de raie,” which roughly translates to fish-face. And critics and onlookers saw right through her elegant façade when this painting was first exhibited at the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874. They noticed her disheveled hair and bangs, and that while her dress was in fashion, it was a “demi-toilette” and did not match the formality of her male companion’s dress or tailcoat. Her face was also heavily powdered, even over done, some said. And while her ostentatious ensemble may have been appropriate for a married woman, for a young woman, it was unseemly.
To 19th-century audiences, Nini’s comportment indicated her status as a “cocotte,” or kept woman. But even her escort (who was modeled by Renoir’s brother Edmund) doesn’t seem particularly interested in her. Gazing through his over-sized opera glasses, he appears to be otherwise engaged, looking anywhere but where he is supposed to look. Perhaps someone new has caught his roving eye?
—Tricia Patterson, Marketing Coordinator
Image Credit. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. La Loge, 1874. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London, P.1948.SC.338.
1 day 16 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Congratulations to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on their grand opening this weekend. The building, designed by architect David Adjaye, is a truly historic addition to the National Mall in Washington D.C. #APeoplesJourney #MakingHistory
1 day 19 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Time machines, superheroes, wild creatures, and more… JourneyMaker makes every visit to the museum an adventure.
Try this new digital interactive for families in the museum’s Ryan Learning Center, located in the Modern Wing, or print out a tour at home.
2 days 17 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Today marks the autumn equinox and the official end of summer. Celebrate the changing of the seasons with the latest in ARTicle’s Sound and Vision series, matching songs from around the world with our encyclopedic collection.