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Picturing a World

Tree house restaurant

The village of Plessis just outside Paris was the site of a restaurant built in 1848 as a tree house in honor of Swiss Family Robinson. Its popularity led to the town’s adopting the name Plessis-Robinson Meals in baskets—typically roast chicken, bread, and wine—were pulled up on ropes to customers.  Read More 
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Romance in the Luxembourg Garden

From the time I started writing, Sargent’s painting of a couple strolling in the Luxembourg Garden was a key image for me. Edward and Jeanette. The fountain. The fashion silhouette of the woman’s dress (no bustle). Touches of red. Light. Read More 

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Café Cagniard

I broke into a grin at the Boston Public Library when I read in an article that Pére Cagniard’s café at 23, rue Bréa was frequented by Carolus-Duran and his students, including Sargent. This painting from Sargent’s second year of studying with Carolus inspired me to invent a picture of the owner’s daughter to hang on  Read More 
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Effie's "Lady's Guide"

An early Eureka! moment on this project came when I saw a reference to May Alcott Nieriker’s Studying Art Abroad and How To Do It Cheaply. Wow! Louisa May Alcott’s sister wrote a book for women who wanted to study art in Paris in 1879? Read More 
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Pâtisserie

My editor teased me one time about how often my characters go to pâtisseries to buy pastry or have a cup of chocolate. Well, wouldn’t you if there were places like this available? When I invented my fictional Petit Honoré, I did not imagine either so high a ceiling or so grand a space, but I love visiting La Pâtisserie Gloppe via Béraud’s painting. Some of Jeanette and Effie’s visits to bakeries, cafés, and tea shops were edited out, but feel free to re-imagine as many as you like—and if you want to send them to the Gloppe, the address was no. 6, Champs Élysées. They’ll love it! Also, if you know of a teashop or bakery that continues to offer this kind of ambiance and gustatory delight, please let us know in the comments. Read More 
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Café Tortoni

The Café Tortoni was a real place, posh and successful for most of the 19th C. Martial’s etching shows the Morris column or advertising kiosk that Robbie pretends to be perusing when Jeanette, Cousin Effie, and Emily arrive expecting to be treated to its famous ice cream.  Read More 
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Lay Figure

The carelessly thrown woman at the feet of painter Henri Michel-Levy is a lay figure. These were mannequins, usually made of wood, that artists used as models in place of a live person (who would have to be paid). Jeanette’s friends would never have allowed their Poupée to sprawl so awkwardly, considering her, as they did, a mascot to be treated with affection.

For John Fergus Weir’s wonderful image of an undressed lay figure that shows its construction, click here. And for the first of a wonderfully informative series of blog posts on lay figures by Dinotopia artist James Gurney and links to the rest, click hereRead More 
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Poupée en Bas

La Poupée en Bas, where Jeanette and Cousin Effie meet Sonja to discuss her eviction, is completely fictional, confected from what I learned about supper clubs and various informal arrangements made by male artists for taking communal meals. It was easy to imagine that women artists might also join together to avoid having to cook or go out to restaurants. I then had the fun of inventing the arrangement with La Belle Hélène, describing the decor, and visiting the place from time to time with my characters. But, of course, there is no illustration of it. As a substitute (and a plug for a future novel), I’m borrowing from research Read More 
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Edward's Les Vosges

When I was inventing Les Vosges, a crowded, unpretentious neighborhood eating place near Les Halles, Manet’s crowded Café hovered vaguely in the back of my mind (more for its atmosphere than the exact look of the place). The beer mugs certainly fit with an Alsatian restaurant. The customers still in their outer wraps and the fogged window suggest an inelegant but popular place. The woman looks pleased, and I’d like to think it’s because the food and the beer are good. Read More 
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Chanteuse

The outdoor Ambassadeurs, where Edward joins the other Murers, was famous for more than its lights among the trees. Singers, comedians, and acrobats performed. The female singers who were its most important stars were handsomely costumed, their repertoire often more popular than refined. You can see the crowd in the general admission seats on the left. In the novel, the Murers sit at one of the tables available at a higher charge. Carl dismisses the pretty girls sitting on the stage as unable to hold a girl at the Renicks' party, but you can see them for yourself here and hereRead More 
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