Le Ballet Espagnol, 1862

I know of no painting fresher, more dynamic, more modern in the Baudelairian sense of the word than this one, with its frenzied rhythm. Technically speaking, it shows Manet at the height of his virtuosity. I think that if I had to choose among all his works the one which gives the best idea of his talent, flawless and uninhibited, without dull passages, without the slightest weakening of interest, I would choose this one, to which my eyes constantly returned at the Manet exhibition at the Orangerie in the Tuileries in 1932.

With astonishing freedom, unsurpassed depth of feeling, and an unusually happy choice of colors, Manet has painted die Spanish company who were dancing at that time at the Hippodrome in Paris. Among them are Lola de Valence, seated, and, standing, the famous dancer Mariano Camprubi.

For this painting Manet made a preliminary drawing heightened with water-color and gouache. After painting the company, he asked Lola de Valence to pose for him several times. Jacques de Bietz described Manet at this time: "This rebellious spirit, who deliberately defied all conventions and despised all the tricks that win prestige in the artificial world of high society, was no brute, no coarse stable-boy, no ruffian. Far from it. It was impossible to deny that this new artistic genius, from whose alleged noxious and sordid realism society was turning in disgust, was, as all who had met him could testify, a perfect gentleman, well-bred and distinguished, amiable and courteous, and, what is more, most elegantly dressed."

Manet exhibited this work for the first time at the Galerie Martinet, boulevard des Italiens, in February and March 1863, together with Music in the Tuileries, Lola de Valence, Street Singer, and Old Musician.