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[ Home: Virtual Museum: Masters of the Poster: The Entertainers: The Moulin Rouge ]


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Photo: The Moulin Rouge c. 1900
The Moulin Rouge



Photo: Moulin Rouge c.1890

The windmill symbol is a holdover from the time of Louis XIV, when the
hilltop Montmartre section of Paris housed as many as thirty windmills. As early as the 1500s, a visiting Italian poet remarked that the windmills "turned as swifty as the Parisians' heads." The landmark Moulin Rouge red windmill was modified and reconstructed several times over the years. The version
shown here represents street view as it appeared at the turn of the century.


Photo: Today's Moulin Rouge

Poster by Toulouse-Lautrec promoting a performance by the dancer "La Goloue"


One of Jules Cheret's Posters


Poster by Jules Grun (?)

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The Mistress of Ceremonies

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A Ball at the Moulin Rouge, c. 1900

The most remarkable feature of
the early Moulin Rouge was
visible only from the rear. Next
to the outdoor Jardin de Paris stood an enormous stucco
elephant, originally constructed
for the Universal Exhibition of
1889.
A gentleman with a single franc
to spare could ascend a spiral
staircase inside one of the elephant's legs. Upon reaching the hollow belly of the beast, the adventurous visitor was entertained by a different belly: that of a dancer. Those of the fairer sex were denied admission into the creature.
Perhaps the ladies busied themselves with donkey rides in the garden while their husbands marveled at the exotic undulating abdomens.

Regrettably, this extraordinary pachyderm was trundled off to the graveyard before his time. When the Moulin Rouge was rebuilt in 1906, the elephant was gone. Fortunately, a kinder fate was reserved for that other symbol of the Universal Exhibition of 1889: La Tour Eiffel.


The Elephant at the Moulin Rouge

Subtitle

The Moulin Rouge, its glory days behind it, continues to entertain foreign tourists a century after its debut. the Can-Can still a staple of its productions. The sketches of Toulouse-Latrec, once handed out to his
subjects as a favor, are now found only in museums and the private collections of private persons. Or, of course, on the Web. Check this collection of 59 wonderful images.

Both the Moulin Rouge and the Can-Can have been immortalized on the screen more than once. Indeed, there have been at least nine such films. Those most readily available include: "Moulin Rouge," the 1953 John Huston film with Jose Ferrer, which recounts the story of Toulouse-Latrec, and "Can-Can," the 1960 film with Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier, Juliet Prowse, and Louis Jourdan, each of which are available on video.

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