Alfred Roll: Retour du Bal
In the nineteenth century, the ball is a significant form of recreation for all layers of society. In autumn and winter, the social season is punctuated by a number of private balls, reserved for high society, whose most important function is the preparation of matrimonial alliances. The decline of public balls from the Second Empire coincides with the rise of taverns along the Seine and Marne. While the old dance halls established at the gates of Paris disappear, the villages as Charenton, or Chatou (with the famous Maison Fournaise immortalized by Renoir) invite a Parisian clientele to their dances to taste joys of a more or less fictitious nature .
A student of Gérôme and Bonnat, Alfred Roll is by no means an academic painter or conventional; like the Impressionists, he is greatly attracted to scenes of modern life. Back From the Ball can legitimately be compared to Renoir’s Dance in the City and Dance in the Country - among Renoir’s most famous paintings. Renoir and Roll seem to look at the theme of the ball as a metaphor of the new pace to the French imposed by the modernization of the country after 1850. While the development of the railway makes possible the discovery of speed, the ball appears as the metaphor of a constantly changing society, where everyone is condemned to turn in the circle assigned to it. When this movement stops, as in this painting by Roll, it seems to lead only to boredom and emptiness - in this case the gray view mirror which reflects the face she undresses. [L’Histoire par L’image]