Shifting Female Identity in Paris: Manet’s Altered “Barmaid” in Folies-Bergère as an Allegory (1880s)

Shifting Female Identity in Paris: Manet’s Altered “Barmaid” in Folies-Bergère as an Allegory (1880s)
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Shifting Female Identity in Paris: Manet’s Altered “Barmaid” in Folies-Bergère as an Allegory (1880s)

LI Ruowei, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University


The identity of the barmaid Suzon in Manet’s painting Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère has been the subject of much academic debate. This essay explores Manet’s provoking creation through a multi-layered analysis.

Click here to read – Shifting Female Identity in Paris: Manet’s Altered “Barmaid” in Folies-Bergère as an Allegory (1880s)





LI Ruowei is a sophomore who hails from Henan province, China. He majors in Computing at PolyU, and has studied business at NTU in Singapore. Tristan has a humanistic background and enjoys reading classical literature, art and history analysis, as well as photography and translation. He endeavors to be practical and prudent as a programmer, romantic and quixotic as a man.


It has been a fantastic journey to gather literature and compose this essay, as well as polish it under the guidance of my editor. The abstractness and subjectivity inherent in art makes the rebuttal or criticism of established interpretations unlikely. So when given this assignment in SD-1C03 Art and the Human Body and asked to develop my own views, it was quite a challenge for me as a freshman. It trained me a lot as a dilettante writer.

The first question which drove me to dive deeper in the subject was the idea of stereotyping. Some critics stereotype Suzon, the heroine of Manet’s painting, as a prostitute, a scathing labelling; some adopt strict patriarchal and heterosexual biases to condemn nonconformity these days. Virgin, whore; humanity, science; heterosexual, homosexual – everything can be vastly and vacantly bipolarized with no middle grounds. Consequently, details and individuality are supplanted. I hope this essay can prompt our thinking: By what do we recall or remember a person we encounter?

  1. Xu fangqing says:

    Very good

  2. I have to say this essay take me a profound reflection that the identity crisis of women and the social phenomena which generated in that certain period. Observing a detail that in Fligure 1, Suzon’s posture is dfferent from that in the mirror. One is standing up straight,the other is gesture that her body is slightly lean forward to the man.Combining with the weeping look in her eyes, we can conjecture there is entanglement and intangible division in her inward; heart. If we expand suzon to a large social crowd, put this paint into a social scale trend with historical background, we are able to suppose that there is a huge women’s self-image crisis at that time.On the other hand, social didn’t value both women right and Identity, or regard them vulgarly. Thererfore, Suzon representative countless women survive aimless and in isolation.Meanwhile, the deviated attitude to sex, in other words, women become a tool to fullfil men’s Entertainment pursit. Even if some of the women attempt to ssek her own value and desire subjectivity ,like suzon,it turns out that it is fruitless and they can’t resst their destiny.
    What I admire most is that author grap myriad details and utilize them to further interpet this paint, at the same time demonstrate us an objective and comprehensive image at that era.

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