This large painting was commissioned by Léopold Mourrier, owner of the Pré-Catelan, the famous restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne, which opened in 1905. It is a late image of Paris society during the Belle Époque. Recognizable in the middle of the painting, with the painter’s second wife, are Duke Hélie de Talleyrand Périgord and, with her back to us, his rich American wife Anna Gould. Among the diners, as if lined up in the windows, are: at a table on the right, the amply proportioned figure of the Marquis de Dion, a pioneer of car manufacturing and influential politician and, posing in the central bay, the very beautiful Liane de Pougy. In the left hand window sits Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. Whether Mourrier, who commissioned the painting, actually chose these people or not, he must have approved of their presence, particularly since the painting was put on public display at the 1909 Salon de la Société Nationale des BeauxArts. The work is ambitious both in size and in its highly original framing and luminosity. It reflects the astonishing social mix of Parisian high society. It is unlikely that a picture featuring representatives of industrial power, sporting heroes, the old aristocracy and a demimondaine, could have been painted anywhere else but here. Above and beyond its depiction of the glories of gastronomy and French lifestyle, An Evening at the Pré-Catelan contributed to the mythology of the Belle Époque. Proust depicted a stylised version of it immediately after the First World War in his description, similar in every aspect, of the dining room of the Grand Hôtel de Balbec in À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (In a Budding Grove), which he compared to ‘an immense and wonderful aquarium’, against whose wall of glass the population, clustered invisibly in the outer darkness, pressed their faces to watch.