Whilst the large version of Le Grand Teddy depicts the interior of the café from a wide and sweeping angle, celebrating the café and its patrons in the glory of its heyday, Femmes dans un restaurant is an altogether more intimate and carefully composed scene. Within its unusual oval format, several elaborately dressed women sit in a row on a red velvet bench, seemingly absorbed in conversation with each other. The table in front of them is attractively adorned with food, drink and other decorative objects, and the overall impression is one of warmth and welcome. Vuillard employs a striking perspective, almost as though the viewer is looking through a window at the cosy scene within the café interior. The women remain apparently unaware of the onlooker’s gaze, a conceit frequently employed by the artist as Kimberly Jones notes: ‘Vuillard's women are perpetually absorbed in their occupations and... remain totally unconscious of the presence of the artist and the gaze of the viewer’ (Guy Cogeval, Édouard Vuillard (exhibition catalogue), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, 2003, p. 131).
Femmes dans un restaurant features a particularly fascinating recent history. Author and scriptwriter Keith Tutt had always loved the work of Vuillard, and in 2007 was convinced that a painting of un-confirmed attribution which was being offered for sale at a local auction room was an example of the artist’s œuvre. So determined was he to prove his belief in the work’s authenticity that, after carrying out extensive research of his own, he contacted the makers of the British television programme Fake or Fortune in order to enlist their help. The team, led by Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce, invoked the power of scientific analysis alongside the help of respected Vuillard experts in order to build up an extremely convincing body of evidence which served to definitively confirm the attribution. Further extensive research allowed the team to trace the intriguing provenance of Femmes dans un restaurant back to the time of its creation. After Le Grand Teddy closed in 1922, it passed into the hands of Jos Hessel, Vuillard’s long-term friend and dealer, before moving into the collection of celebrated theatre impresario Charles B. Cochran. Whilst in Cochran's collection it was viewed by Walter Sickert, who is reported to have declared it 'the finest example of Vuillard's work' he had seen. Afterwards it was owned for a time by the artist Doris Zinkeisen, whose self-portrait resides prestigiously in the collection of the National Gallery in London, before being acquired by art dealer Robert Warren and offered for sale at a local auction house, where Mr Tutt acquired it. After reviewing the comprehensive research dossier put together by the Fake or Fortune team and Mr Tutt, the painting was declared authentic by the Wildenstein Institute in a thrilling climax to the extraordinary history of the painting to date.
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