Bal du moulin de la Galette (commonly known as Dance at Le moulin de la Galette) is an 1876 painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It is housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and is one of Impressionism’s most celebrated masterpieces. The painting depicts a typical Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette in the district of Montmartre in Paris. In the late 19th century, working class Parisians would dress up and spend time there dancing, drinking, and eating galettes into the evening.
It was by a stroke of fortune that this masterpiece can be viewed by the general public and not by a private owner alone. From 1879 to 1894 the Bal du moulin de la Galette was the property of French painter Gustave Caillebotte. When he died, it became a property of the state in lieu of death duties.
The smaller version is in the hands of a private collector. For many years it belonged to John Hay Whitney and after his death his widow sold the painting at $78 million to Ryoei Saito. When Saito announced, that on his death the Bal du moulin de la Galette and Portrait of Dr. Gachet, van Gogh painting he owned, would be cremated along with him, it caused international outrage. Fortunately, Saito’s company had severe financial difficulties. The bank which held it as collateral sold it to a private collector.
Renoir left behind a rich legacy of masterpieces. His style did change over the years when he felt he was not going in the right direction. Whichever style he painted in, his genius was reflected in every brushstroke.