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Another Parisian address

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

A while ago now I did a post on an address in Paris that featured on a notebook of mine. It was just plucked out of the air almost, but revealed a few interesting things.

As does today's post based on this very famous poster by Toulouse Lautrec which is my desktop calendar painting of the day. Oh my goodness how many amazingly famous paintings does the Met Museum have one wonders?

Anyway - here it is Le Divan Japonais - the name of a cabaret in Paris at the time in which we see two of the foremost performers of the time. In the foreground is Jane Avril - a dancer, and on stage, Yvette Guilbert - mostly a singer but also a dancer. We can't see her head but apparently the long black gloves are a trademark that identifies her. The man is a critic and friend of Lautrec - Edouard Dujardin. Lautrec painted them and also La Goulue - perhaps their even more famous rival - Louise Weber was her real name - many times and below are one of each plus a photo of each - from left to right Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert and La Goulue.

Tucked away in the top right- hand corner of our original poster is the address - 75 Rue des Martyres. So I went looking on Google Maps street view and found that 75 Rue des Martyres is now a drag nightclub called Madame Arthur which is the name of a song that Yvette Guilbert made famous.

Next task - investigate Madame Arthur. Well it turns out that Madame Arthur has its own place in Montmartre history being the first transvestite cabaret in Paris - opening in 1946. It lasted for 75 years but closed in 2010. Before I go on with that though, isn't it interesting that the transgressive tradition continues? The can-can of course caused a scandal at the time of its introduction into the Paris night-club scene. Evidently they think it evolved from the 19th century dance - the quadrille. Women of the time, of course did not show much of their anatomy in public but the can-can showed a lot. And one website claimed, that the first time that it was performed was at Madame Arthur - in one of its prior guises. I can find no confirmation of this of course. And David tells me that - in one of those coincidences - just the other day - maybe even today - he heard that La Goulue who was the toast of Montmartre and earned large sums of money, ended her days on the streets selling peanuts, cigarettes and peanuts.

But back to the history of Madame Arthur. For very many years it flourished but eventually went out of business. I should have said by the way, that Madame Arthur is indeed at no. 75 - and therefore the site of the Divan Japonais - the Japonais bit by the way being the way that it was decorated and also the huge influence of Japanese prints on the artists of the time - including Lautrec. And the people who designed posters down the years were obviously very conscious of the Lautrec heritage. This poster is from the 1960s, but has references to various Lautrec posters.

However, when I looked further it seems that actually the Divan Japonais was next door and was larger, being a kind of theatre/concert hall as shown on this old poster. It opened in 1873. But eventually that too declined until it was re-opened in 2009 under the name Divan du Monde. It is still there and is now a venue for live music - world music, whatever that means, being its speciality. Which is rather more in keeping with the original Divan Japonais although not quite as transgressive.

Back to Madame Arthur. When it closed in 2010 the owners of the next door Divan du Monde bought it, connected it to the concert hall via a corridor and reopened it in 2015 as the transgender cabaret that it still is - with four out of five stars in Trip Advisor.

The space looks beautifully restored I have to say. There is a website but it is really very uninformative. But here are a few pictures of the food that seems to be available - there are no menus on their website - including a 'brunch familiale' - a family brunch!

The Rue des Martyrs itself has apparently been nominated as the most wonderful street in Paris many, times and has many studios, boutiques, artisan food shops, restaurants and so on. The restaurant opposite the Divan du Monde, Le Fourmi is apparently pretty trendy. So next time you are in Paris - if only - check it all out. Well, if you are into drag!


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