Rodolphe Salis  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Louis Rodolphe Salis (29 May 1851 – 20 March 1897) was the creator, host, owner and soul of the famous cabaret of Le Chat Noir ("The Black Cat").


Son of a distiller in Châtellerault, young Rodolphe Salis came to Paris in 1872, after leaving the regiment of his military service. He moved into the Hotel de Rome, rue de Seine in the Latin Quarter.

It melts "the school or vibrating Iriso Chicago-subversive", to give importance to his artistic group and especially to inspire confidence in publishers religious images. He made indeed to live, paths cross and other religious objects he painted in series with friends.

"In fact, it was mainly intended immediate but not admitted making serial paths cross at eight and fourteen francs each for a shop selling religious articles in the Saint Sulpice. The work, oh so tedious was divided between the four "kids" by their provisions. Rene Gilbert painted heads, hands Wagner, Antonio de La Gandara draperies, Salis, finally, funds and landscapes ..."

To combine art and alcoholic beverage, Salis had the idea to create a café in "the purest style of Louis XII ... with a chandelier of wrought iron from the Byzantine period, and where the gentry, the burghers and peasants are now invited to drink absinthe after the usual manner of Victor Hugo and Garibaldi and hypocras in golden bowls". In reality, the first tavern The Black Cat (Le Chat Noir), which opened in November 1881, began by serving bad wine during a brief theatrical scene. But already at the door, guests were greeted by a Swiss guard, splendidly bedecked covered with gold from head to foot, supposedly responsible for bringing in the painters and poets who arrived, while barring the "infamous priests and the military". Salis' tongue-in-cheek admirational piece was on a high marble fireplace: The skull of Louis XIII as a child

Some time before on the far Rive Gauche) (left bank) Salis had met Emile Goudeau, whom he was convinced to transfer his property in his Hydropathes. On June 10, 1885, with great fanfare, Salis moved to new premises located at 12 Rue Victor Massé. Very quickly, poets and singers who performed at the Black Cat drew the best practice for their craft in Paris. The greetings from Salis rang out often at the expense of customers. He would arrest one with a "Well, you're finally out of prison?" or at another "What have you done with your chick from yesterday?" to a new client visibly accompanied by his wife. One evening, the future King Edward VII was addressed by Salis: "Well, look here: it seems the Prince of Wales all pissed!"

Every Friday, a luncheon was an opportunity to prepare for performances and the editing of a humorous magazine. With legendary stinginess, Salis found every excuse for not paying his staff, suppliers and artists. In success, he even asked to be paid by those whom he hosted at The Black Cat. But his patter to the guests and his organizational skills and personality attracted exceptional artists of all kinds, and a large crowd. The combination of a bar with entertainment (now the standard cabaret theme), was novel. In addition, Salis had the idea of playing music in his tavern by installing a piano, at that time an innovation, which was soon banned for newer establishments, and which thereafter allowed him to gain an advantage over the competition.

"Male, square-shouldered, red hair dyed vermilion," Salis was described by Lawrence Tailhade, "ageless, though stout, his face scratched by many wrinkles, the breast in a doublet whose romantic satin floral contrasted with the sobriety of a dark coat. Intact, his tawny hair was consistent with its coppery beard and gave him the air of a Flemish reiter ... [He was] baritone, bronze, emphatic, biting and sarcastic with thunder, cynically flouted the Philistines ... Prodigious nature of charlatan."

In the 1890s (see poster at left), Salis began touring his entertainment company The Black Cat throughout France, renting - something that was not done at the time. The theaters and locations where the performance occurred were paid for by enclosing all receipts and often refuses, under various pretexts.

He died in Naintré in 1897.


  • In the department of Vienne to: Châtellerault Naintré Marigny-Brizay a street bears his name.
  • 18 Boulevard de Clichy in Paris stands a plaque: "Here was the tomb of the Black Cat founded by Rodolphe Salis ..."


  • Mariel Oberthür, Musée d'Orsay,The Black Cat, 1881-1897: exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay from February 25 to May 31, 1992, Meeting of National Museums, 1992
  • Lawrence Tailhade, Little Memoirs of the Life, ed. BiblioBazaar, 2008
  • Anne de Bercy, Armand Ziwès, Montmartre ... In the evening, ed. Grasset, 1951
  • Edmond Deschaumes, Le Cabaret du Chat Noir, Journal encyclopedic 1897

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rodolphe Salis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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