Point 8 The Lapin Agile Cabaret
Continue down the Rue des Saules to the far end of the vineyard. The small building at the corner of the vineyard with green shutters, rustic concrete fence and trees in front is the Lapin Agile.
A famous watering hole and Montmartre institution at the beginning of the 20th century, many writers, artists, musicians, actors and poets have passed through here.
André Gill’s agile rabbit
The name means the agile rabbit or Gill’s rabbit; it comes from the commercial ensign painted by the artist André Gill in the 1870s showing a rabbit skipping out of a frying pan with a bottle of wine on its arm, wearing a red neckerchief and sash. Because the rabbit (lapin) was painted by Gill, the sign, which quickly became famous in Montmartre, came to be known as the Lapin à Gill (Gill’s Rabbit). By repetition this became Lapin Agile (Agile Rabbit), this latter name stuck.
Frédé and the Lapin Agile
In 1903 Frédéric Gérard known as Frédé became landlord. Frédé was well known in Montmartre where he would go round the streets selling fish carried by his donkey. Other animals belonging to Frédé such as a crow, a goat, a monkey or his pet white mice would sometimes make an appearance at the cabaret.
He also had another café called the Zut where Picasso was a regular so Picasso came to the Lapin Agile too. Frédé, was musical and easy going. He too wore a bandanna round his neck and sometimes on his head. This photograph shows him singing and playing his guitar as an attentive bohemian audience looks on.
Picasso’s painting Au Lapin Agile (At the Lapin Agile) hanging in the Lapin Agile
We can catch a glimpse of Frédé (wearing clogs) in Picasso’s painting Au Lapin Agile (At the Lapin Agile) which was painted in 1905, in the Bateau Lavoir, and hung in the cabaret. The work can just be made out to the left of the sculpture of the Christ figure in the above photograph.
In the foreground of the painting are two melancholic figures, a self-portrait as Harlequin and a woman. Both figures seem self-absorbed, hardly aware of the other. The woman is said to be a portrait of Germaine the artists’ model for whom Casagemas, the close friend of Picasso’s who accompanied him on that first trip to Paris in 1900, shot himself.
Frédé, who had some outstanding bills to pay, sold the painting some time later. The sum he received is not recorded. In 1989 in New York the painting was sold for $40.7 million. The buyer was Walter Annenberg businessman and diplomat.
He generously left it to The Metropilitan Museum of Art in New York where it can be seen now.
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