Jenkins, talking with Rosie Manasch about the sale of Donners’ pictures by his widow, observes, “If I’d been Matilda, I’d have kept the Toulouse Lautrec.” [BDFR 109/ 101]
Do you realize that a relation of mine — Isadore Manasch — was painted by Lautrec? A café scene, in the gallery at Albi. Isadore’s slumped on the chair in the background. [BDFR 110/ 101]
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was born in Albi in southern France. He broke both legs as a teenager due to a bone disease and grew to only 5’1″ with a full sized trunk on pathologically shortened legs. He painted in brothels, nightclubs like the Moulin Rouge, and other parts of Montmarte. Jenkins’ admiration for Toulouse-Lautrec was shared by Powell, who described “his power to impart, by wit, flourish, a sense of design, beauty and universality to themes in themselves sinister and tawdry.” [TKBR 363]
We have not been able to fully explore the collection of the Musée Toulouse Lautrec, founded in Albi in 1922; the man whom we show slumped in a chair is Monsieur Delaporte rather than Isadore Manasch.
Jenkins imagines Rosie as a model for Lautrec:
At forty or so, she herself was not unthinkable in terms of Lautrec’s brush, more alluring certainly than the ladies awaiting custom on the banquettes of the Rue des Moulins, though with something of their resignation. A hint of the seraglio, and its secrets, that attached to her suggested oriental custume in one of the masked ball scenes. [BDFR 110/ 101]
The scene above left probably actually shows a brothel, with interior design perhaps evoking a harem room, at Rue d’Ambroise, not Rue des Moulins. Lautrec favored Mireille, the prostitute in the foreground.
Jenkins describes Rosie as having plump little hands, so perhaps he purposefully chose to compare her to the woman with ample buttocks, shown above right at the masked ball. The man in the painting, ogling her bottom, is modeled on Lautrec’s cousin. With this caricature, Lautrec is teasing his cousin for behavior much more staid than this own. Powell classed Toulouse-Lautrec among the famous men “whose lives are so picturesque that legend obscures any balanced picture of them…” [SPA 262]. Toulouse-Lautrec died before this thirty-seventh birthday of alcoholism and syphilis, which he purportedly contracted from one of his favorites, prostitute and model Carmen Gaudin, also known as Rosa La Rouge .