Although Rolla was bequest to the Musée du Luxembourg whose collections the Musée d'Orsay inherited, this famous painting by Gervex had never been presented in our galleries before. On permanent loan to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux – which has kindly granted its temporary return to Paris - it figures among the pieces loaned on a long term basis to other institutions to widen the audience of national collections.
Evoking sexual pleasure, Rolla was withdrawn from the 1878 Salon due to the scandal it provoked. Inspired by a poem by Musset describing the fall of a bourgeois, whom Gervex represents at the dramatic moment of his suicide, it evokes the indignation already caused at the Salon by the romantic sculptor Clésinger's Woman Bitten by a Snake in 1847. The painting also refers to Olympia, the prostitute painted by Manet that revolted the public of the Salon des Refusés in 1863, organised on the fringe of the official event.