Une loge aux Italiens
The theatre auditorium, and in particular the box, a popular place for society exchanges, was a subject frequently chosen by the Impressionists. The most famous of these works is, without doubt, The Theatre Box (London, Courtauld Institute Galleries) which Renoir submitted in the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874. This painting by Eva Gonzalès was produced at the same time and, in its first version, may have been refused initially at the 1874 Salon, before being exhibited, after some changes, at the 1879 Salon, where it was given a rapturous reception.
The young painter claimed that she had been taught by Manet, who advised her as a friend. This relationship can be clearly seen, as much in the choice of a "modern" subject as in the sharp contrasts where pale skin and light-coloured fabrics are set against a dark background. The bouquet placed on the edge of the box is almost directly quoted from the master, and recalls the bouquet offered to Olympia. One even wonders if Manet had not had a direct involvement in the painting's design, as there is a pastel version by him, which remained a sketch. The strange detachment of the figures – Henri Guérard, the husband of the artist, and her sister, Jeanne Gonzalès – also recalls Manet's decision never to give the spectator an explicit interpretation of the subject, thus avoiding the pitfalls of anecdote and facile sentimentality.