Browse reactions of other viewers below. The opinions presented here may have been edited and do not reflect the opinions of the Getty.
Posted on 10/2/07 by Phil, Columbus
I visited the Courtauld collection in 1994 and talked to a guard there. He said people argue and comment about the mirror all the time. He said they have x-rayed the painting and found that the man's reflection was originally right next to the woman, then painted out and moved to the right, then painted out again and moved to where the man is now. So it is a distorted reflection. Of course the man would look odd in its original place.
Manet sure captures interesting psychological moments, and this day dreaming worker seems very modern.
Posted on 9/3/07 by Leah Wendt, Kalamazoo
I didn't understand the brilliance of painting images in a mirror, until my son was given this painting for a final exam in an upper level optics course at Hope College. They had to analyze the mirror images based on a difficult mathematical formula.
What a paradox! The painted image of the barmaid reflects a world of supreme order and design, yet her personal life reflects disorder and chaos!
Posted on 8/29/07 by RS April, New York City
In this portrait of an unnamed barmaid, we see a well-dressed young woman with an attractive demeanor but whose facial expression is distracted, pensive, perhaps even reflective. About what? Does the mirror contain the physical reflection of the world in front of her bar, or perhaps a psychological statement of her inner reflection, having to do with the many patrons she has served in that building whose activities are well described in Second Empire and Third Republic literature—such as Georges Duroy's frequentations in Maupassant's Bel-Ami?
The figure evokes compassion for this young female person who lives in a precarious world whose future depends only on the whims and decisions of men in her life. We are drawn to the sensual, as well as emotional, in our wanting to be able to step into her life to interact with her, help her, and to perhaps, save her from pain, poverty, disease and desolation.
Posted on 8/28/07 by Carole Singer, Woodland Hills, California
One could easily rename this painting The Voyeur. Me, I see a woman who stands displayed like the bottles of liquor and lucious fruits in a bowl...one more object for sale. Like the flowers she wears and the flowers in a glass in front of her she is in full bloom and will soon fade. I believe the expression on her face reflects her awareness of her position in the society surrounding her. I see two worlds...a physically real one and one that exists in the imagination of the artist and anyone viewing this painting from the various perspectives that exist in the journey we take in life. How or why the artist set this scene before us is open to as many interpretations as there are viewers of this work of art.
Posted on 8/15/07 by Connie Snyder, Henderson, NV
The barmaid, with arms outstretched, presents the sad reality of her world to the viewer. If we could see into her exanimate eyes, the reflection there would be one and the same with Manet's background.
Posted on 8/8/07 by Daniel Lobato, Pasadena
This painting is a "reflection" of Manet's time and events. There is no mistake in the reflection. A man stands before the barmaid but her expression is aloof. Distant physically and emotionally, reserved and remote: she stands apart with dignity. Dignity is not visible. Manet's work was rejected, yet he continued to paint. So his "barmaid" confronts those who approach to study the composition. She, like the artist, is extraordinary as we approach to her and are seen as merely ordinary.
Posted on 8/6/07 by Ren Ikuta, Laguna Niguel
I was very disappointed by the curator's decision to present this painting in its current environment. While in that room, far away from all other paintings, all that the other viewers seemed to talk about is this effect of the mirror. Was there not another way of conveying this question of perspectives than to isolate it, all alone in such claustrophobic space? Was this trick with the mirror so important as to disregard the fact that the painting was hung in a salon exhibition, along with many other paintings of Manet's time, and that the subject of the painting is itself of a variety-show, which must have had interesting relation to the social dynamics of the salon exhibition? This myopic presentation at the Getty seemed to obliterate the spirit of Manet's paintings, never an isolated object but a social one, relating to countless other subjects from Titian, Velazquez, and Goya of the past, to his contemporaries, and even to our own time.
Posted on 7/11/07 by Michaelbookout, Sacramento CA
We the viewer are the man in the mirror. The artist, for composition purposes of necessity, had to put fruit etc. to one side. Manet's reputation is based on his bold moves in composition and the reaction to the "Salon" by his use of black paint and common day subjects.
Posted on 7/9/07 by Joe Corso, Long Beach, CA
This has always been one of my favorite paingings, and to see it in person for the first time was a treasured experience.
Although Dr. Park's explanation for the perspective is fascinating, I believe Manet was playing freely and confidently with space and reflection and intended the mirror as an alternate reality, presenting two different points of view at once. How he got there, whether he used the complicated narrow cropping or not, doesn't affect the dizzying impact of the picture.
Decades later Picasso would cause a stir by painting in multiple viewpoints. So Manet, who had ushered in Impressionism, was already looking into the 20th century when he painted this final masterpiece.
Posted on 7/8/07 by April Game, San Diego
And look in the mirror behind her. She is in alternate worlds. In one she is actively being a bartender serving this gentleman a drink (listening to his order, preparing whatever) and in the other she stands back whistfully thinking of whatever events in her mind are giving her that pain. In the mirror behind her, she is leaning forward, her body looks active. The girl herself standing in front of us is standing straight... it almost feels to me like she is leaning back. Like seeing her interior and exterior worlds at once. Such a great painting. The interesting third dimension is, are we, the viewer, standing in the place of the gentleman at the bar?
Posted on 7/6/07 by Chris Campos, Los Angeles
I was awe struck. I have studied the painting in my humanities class and enjoed it very much, but to see it in real life, it was amazing! A truly spectacular experience.
Posted on 6/29/07 by Lynda Cohalla, Austin, TX
The barmaid's resignation at her lot in life.