Born in 1842 in Ferrara, a town in northern Italy, Boldini became firmly established in Paris from 1871 onwards, where he very quickly became a fashionable portraitist and an important witness to the frenetic life of this rapidly expanding, modern city, with its streets, cafés and dances. Here, Boldini is certainly depicting the Moulin-Rouge just after it opened in 1889. The establishment quickly became one of the hot spots of Parisian nightlife.
The vigorous and dynamic brushstrokes and the liveliness of the red recreate the feeling of fun and freedom, sweeping along diners and dancers alike in a brilliantly rendered composition. Before the Musée d'Orsay acquired it in 2010, this painting, certain parts of which remain as in sketch form, had only ever been exhibited once, in 1933 in New York.