Posted by: Lizzie Ross | November 19, 2010

I miss Marcel

Gustave Caillebotte

I’m in the depths of NaNo, at the infamous 2nd week low point, where I feel I’m writing myself into circles. I yearn to immerse myself again in Proust’s 1880s Paris, but I have to focus on my writing.

So, because I must read something each day, I’ve gone through the first few chapters of de Waal’s memoir (see last week’s post). It’s great fun to see the overlaps of the real Charles Ephrussi and the fictional Charles Swann. Ephrussi develops an all-consuming interest in Dürer, Swann in Vermeer. Ephrussi hangs out in Mme Lemaire’s salon, Swann in Mme Verdurin’s. Ephrussi’s religion separates him from polite society, whereas for Swann it’s his marriage.

De Waal references Caillebotte’s painting (above), Jeunne homme à sa fenêtre, saying it could easily be Charles Ephrussi on his arrival in Paris:

Here [he] stands at the open window of their family apartment looking out onto the intersection of the rue de Monceau’s neighbouring streets. He stands with his hands in his pockets, well dressed and self-assured, with his life before him and a plush armchair behind him. ¶Everything is possible.

A sense of wealth exudes from this portrait, as well as from de Waal’s memoir. The Ephrussis had an astonishing amount of money, with family homes across Europe — a different one for each season, plus 2 or 3 more for side excursions. Those were the days, my friend!

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