Today I had one of those "a-ha" moments when I saw this painting, Chez Tortoni by Edouard Manet.
While I was
writing Race to
I had set the first scene of the novel—an altercation between Gabriel Bonvalot and General Prejevalsky that may or may not be real—in Café Tortoni, a well-known café on the Rue des Italiens in Paris. But until today I had never
known about the existence of this painting, even though I had been to the Tibet Isabella Stewart
numerous times, although not prior to March 18, 1990, the day it was stolen. To
me, Cafe Tortoni, with its sophisticated ambiance and suave reputation, known for being the meeting place of politicians, intellectuals, scholars, dandies, and ladies of the demi-monde seemed to be the perfect setting to place two opposing
characters, and how much more so now that I can see it through Manet's eyes.
All I can say is, "Wow!" and pray that some day Chez Tortoni is restored to its
rightful place in the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, one of Boston's great cultural treasures. Boston
|Chez Tortoni by Edouard Manet (1878-80). Cafe Tortoni earned an international reputation by its famous clientele as well as its frozen desserts.|
|Cafe Tortoni on the Boulevard des Italiens, Paris.|
Incidentally, the FBI is offering a $5 million reward for the return of Chez Tortoni.