Looking at this scene of night life, where under the artificial light, people, flowers, fruit, and bottles are grouped against a background of their own reflections, one is indeed tempted to consider the favorite question of the "picture-dissectors," namely, "Where is the mirror?"
Certainly anyone who set out to determine the exact position of the mirror in this picture would have great difficulty, just as they would in establishing theposition of the bearded man whom we see only in reflection. This is one of those distortions which delight us by their daring (there is a similar one in "Le Bain Tur" by Ingres). The still life in the foreground has been much admired; the champagne bottles are magnificent. In the dish of fruit, Manet for once has abandoned the lemon in favor of the orange. On the marble-topped counter two roses stand in a cordial glass. But the finest feature of the picture is without doubt the girl, with her blonde hair and rosey complexion. Manet has painted her wearing his favorite black velvet ribbon around her neck. This beauty, tired yet still attentive to the customers, was a model called Suzon, introduced to Manet by Henry Dupray, the painter of military subjects. He can be glimpsed with Latouche in the stagebox at the extreme left.
Jeanniot, who watched Manet working at this picture, published his recollections of it in La Grande Revue, on April 10, 1907:
"I saw on a chair behind him and watched him at work. Although he painted from life, Manet did not by any means copy it; I realized his great gift for simplification. He began to build up the woman's head, but not by the means that nature offered him. Everything was concentrated: the tones were lighter, the colors brighter, the values more homogeneous. The whole formed a light and tender harmony. We spoke of Chaplin. "He is very talented, you know," said Manet, while painting in with small strokes the gold paper around the neck of a champagne bottle."
"Other people joined us, and Manet stopped painting to go and sit on the divan against the wall on the right. It was then that I saw how his illness had undermined him. He walked with a stick and appeared to tremble."
Exhibited in the 1882 Salon, this picture, Manet's last important work, won him the praise of the perceptive ccritic, Ernest Chesneau. "Manet", he wrote in L'Annuaire illustre des beaux-arts, "does not immobilize his forms; he surprises them in their affective movement. His formula of art is very new, very personal, very piquant; it marks the artist's conquest of the world of external phenomena, and it will not be lost on future generations."