We’re on the other side of a balustrade to a balcony room which overlooks the dance floor at the Moulin Rouge. Seated around the table ahead of us is a bleary-eyed assemblage: writer Edouard Dujardin, dancer La Macarona, photographer Paul Sescau, and the vintner Maurice Guibert.* The woman with red hair seated with her back to us is Jane Avril (see previous post).

Ms Avril also has her back turned to what we cannot help but see. The woman in the lower right hand corner is May Milton. She was a somewhat untalented dancer from England who didn’t last even a year at the Moulin Rouge. She’s standing too close to an electric lamp lit from below (a Degas technique) which casts an acidic turquoise shadow on her ghostly white face.

At the Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1892 - 1895

At the Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1892 – 1895

Behind the assemblage is Henri de Toulouse-Latrec’s rendition of himself and his much taller cousin walking out of the room. It may be getting close to last call so they’re leaving for the evening. Behind them (upper right corner) the Moulin Rouge’s reigning dance star, La Goulue, adjusts her red hair in a mirrored wall, with her back turned to the entire room. The woman with her seems to be glaring indignantly at Toulouse-Lautrec and his cousin’s backsides.

Henri is very pale and doesn’t look like he feels too well. I don’t know why his cousin (Gabriel Tapié de Céléyran) and the writer Edouard Dujardin are the only two normally complected people in the room. Well, there is a depth of tonal realism to Jane Avril’s hair.

Which brings us back to the garish May Milton, who is trying too hard to get into a scene where she obviously doesn’t belong. The undercurrent of social nuance is known only to Toulouse-Lautrec and this cast of characters on this night at the Moulin Rouge.


NOTE:  Toulouse-Lautrec was 36-years-old when he died in 1901. “At the Moulin Rouge was apparently cut down along the right and bottom after the artist’s death,  perhaps to moderate its radical composition.”* In other words, May Milton was amputated from this picture (she was restored sometime before 1924.)

*Art Institute of Chicago. Image enlarges to 1392 x 1218.