Brasseries in the heart of Paris

Brasseries in the heart of Paris

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Title: The bock waitress.

Author : MANET Edouard (1832 - 1883)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 77.5 - Width 65

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas, between 1878 and 1879.

Storage place: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 99-004980 / RF1959-4

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: August 2011

Professor of contemporary history IUFM and University Claude Bernard Lyon 1.Head of University for all, University Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne.

Historical context

Beer sparkles in the 19th centurye century

Beer consumption grew significantly in France in the 19th century.e century, overflowing its initial domains, the North and Alsace: less than 10 liters per inhabitant and per year in the 1830s, more than 23 liters in the 1880s. Paris in particular concentrates several hundred of them, in particular after the universal exhibitions of the Second Empire, with the famous and naughty “brasseries à femmes” and other “café-concerts”. The so-called Bon Bock association likes to meet at the Guerbois café.

Image Analysis

The artist's world

At the Brasserie des Martyrs, at the Brasserie Andler, if not at the Grande Brasserie, in establishments in the Latin Quarter or the Grands Boulevards, a clientele of students, journalists and artists (Monet, Courbet, Vallès and Baudelaire). The bourgeron and the worker's cap rub shoulders with the bourgeois's suit and top hat in a noisy, smoky atmosphere, in a real social melee. Here, women work: on the stage, or at the table. Édouard Manet, who has just sketched the engraver Bellot, member and founder of the Bon Bock association (The Bon Bock, 1878), emphasizes here, rather the trait, on a woman. The vaporous white dress of the half-hidden “the dancer” underlines the seriousness of the waitress's outfit, in full light. The men relax, talk, drink and smoke. The white clay pipe - a Gambier from Givet or a Fiolet from Saint-Omer - of an artist in a blouse makes the link with the black top hat of a probably tipsy bourgeois. The decor (chandelier, painted flowers) takes care of the tinsel.

Beer is served in "bocks". Large glasses with handles initially contain a quarter of a liter, then increase to 20 centiliters. Their name comes from German Bockbieror "goat beer" according to the design of a famous brand of Einbeck.


Manet naturalist

Manet opts here for a decided naturalism, at the very moment of the release of Zola's novels (The Assommoir, 1877). He turns to brasserie scenes, concert cafes, as well as portraits of commonwomen or demi-mondaines. How not to see in this “waitress of bocks” another Gervaise, tireless worker, so close to the fall? How not to see in these men other characters of the Rougon-Macquart, so real however, despite the veil of smoke? The painter responds here to the writer.

  • beer
  • cafes
  • Parisians
  • tobacco


Luc BIHL-WILLETTE, From taverns to bistrots: A history of cafes, Lausanne, L'Âge d'homme, 1997. Jean-Claude BOLOGNE, History of cafes and cafetiers, Paris, Larousse, 1993. Bertrand HELL, L'Homme and beer.Essai comparative d'ethnologie alsacienne, Paris, EC, 1991. Henri-Melchior de LANGLE, Le Petit Monde des cafés et debits parisiens au XIXe siècle.Evolution de la sociabilité citadine, Paris, PUF, coll. “Histoires”, 1990.Didier NOURRISSON, Le Buveur du XIXe siècle, Paris, Albin Michel, coll. "L’Aventure humaine", 1990. Didier NOURRISSON, Cigarette. History of a tease, Paris, Payot, 2010.

To cite this article

Didier NOURRISSON, "Brasseries in the heart of Paris"

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