Rosa La Rouge, who were you?

Rosa la rouge

At Montrouge – Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec   

I wrote about my first impressions of, At Montrouge: Rosa La Rouge, by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec in an earlier post, “Rosa La Rouge,” was her name,” after buying the small framed print at a thrift shop.

I’ve learned that the model, Rosa, is a bit of a mystery.

sketch of Carmen Gaudin looks like Rosa

Français : Carmen Gaudin – Boulevard extérieur

The sketch (on the right), from Wiki Commons sure looks like At Montrouge, however the model’s name is documented there as, Carmen Gaudin.

Below are the words to a song that I found online at 

“It’s Rosa I don’t know she comes from
She has red hair, a dog’s head
When she passes they say, here comes ‘Red’
At Montrouge.

When she gets a ‘John’ in the corner
Me, I’m right there not far at all
And the next day the cop finds ‘red’ all right,
At Montrouge.”

Not such a pleasing song for such a lovely woman, even if she was a prostitute.  

I learned a bit more about Rosa from a Princeton blog (below).

“Redheads occupy a significant place in the work of Toulouse-Lautrec. As he declared to his atelier friends in 1884, his preference came from a characteristic odor of the redheads that he found arousing —

–Since the reason he liked to paint her (Rosa) was that he identified himself with her, and more specifically with her fake red hair, painting her as an ordinary brown-haired woman would have had the same connotations as considering himself an ordinary aristocrat, a condition from which he was getting farther and farther away.”  (Source:  The Calling of the Rose — See below for links)

An interesting and informed comment came in for this post from a friend and fellow blogger, Leslie Sigal Javorek, owner of IconDoIt.  Leslie is also the artist who designed the awesome digital art in this post titled, Too Loose to Trek.

From Leslie:

“As to Rosa* she was indeed a prostitute but, unlike most of society (then as now), Lautrec neither felt nor exhibited disdain for these women, rather he believed them to be far more “real” and honest than the upper-class females that he had grown up with. In Lautrec’s voluminous body of work, including paintings and drawings, his models were almost always invariably prostitutes. While many have taken this as a sign of degeneracy, it was simply a fact of life in late-nineteenth century France and also the only source of female models willing to bare more than their face or occasionally their hands. Importantly, Lautrec never portrayed his models in a demeaning way. He was simply a “reporter”, an observer who tried to accurately capture the spirit of his models and surroundings without any moral judgment. If anything, Lautrec’s work accurately reflect his own gregarious, open-minded personality than believed in revering beauty and humanity over dogma.”

“* As to the song you refer to (above), I could find no confirmation whether or not this referred to Carmen specifically or whether it had any connection to Lautrec’s paintings and sketches of Carmen. I suspect that if that song had any connection to a Lautrec model, it would more likely have been Jane Avril, who was not only a red-head but was a popular singer & dancer at the Moulin Rouge at the time.”

Thank you Leslie!

Too Loose to Trek, Nouveau for the 21st century, by Leslie Sigal Javorek

“Too Loose to Trek” by Leslie Sigal Javorek

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec was an interesting character.  His life and work, and also the lives of his models and friends, led me on an interesting exploration with rich little surprises along the way, such as who is blamed for his early death. 


Her name was Rosa La Rouge!


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Too Loose to Trek, by Leslie Sigal Javorek, IconDoIt, the blog.

The Calling of the Rose,

song via http://www.Christie’

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Howard on March 6, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    I am with her now at the Barnes Collection and wanted to share the experience. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people


    • WOW!!! Wow! I wish I had been there!!! Thanks for sharing that with me! Incredibly Cool! 🙂



      • Posted by garfield114 on August 4, 2021 at 10:55 PM

        I was there just a couple of weeks ago, struggling through the magnificence of the permanent collection on a broken foot & reaching the end of my endurance. This extraordinary painting gave me whiplash, I turn so hard to stare. Holy crap. Such power, such anger, such defiance. Bought the poster. She now hangs just outside my bedroom door, & I fear no evil. And FYI if you haven’t been to the Barnes, go. Just up sticks tp Philly and go. One man’s collection – breathtaking.

        Liked by 1 person


        • Garfield, hello! I’m happy to hear you bought the poster! Please pardon my very delayed reply! I haven’t been able to write in a long while, but I miss it so much. I still hope to start again. I’m sorry about your foot, and neck. (I broke my foot and ankle in 2020 and that was tough). I wish I could get up north. It’s too hot in the southeast. I would love to see that collection. Maybe I will just go! You know, I’ve never noticed anger in my print of Rosa. Perhaps I will look at it again through a new lens. She certainly portrays a lot of emotion though. I adore my print. Mine hangs by my bedroom door also! Thanks so much for your comnent.

          Hope you might see my reply.

          Thanks again!




  2. Posted by Barrie A. Kendrick on October 31, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Apparently, and sadly, Carmen Gaudin (aka Rosa la Rouge & La Rousse), as well as being an excellent model, is believed to be the prostitute from whom Toulouse Lautrec contacted syphilis, which contributed to the artist’s early death at the age of only thirty seven.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Barrie! Wow, It’s been a while since I read this post.

      You know, I’ve read about Rosa la Rouge, and indeed some do say that ‘Lautrec’s death was in part due to his having contracted syphilis and possibly from “Rosa”, but I remain uncertain about this. ‘Lautrec was known to spend time with prostitutes. Who knows for sure if it was Ms. Rosa? And, there is information that confuses this story even more, particularly that Rosa is not the same person as Carmen Gaudin, as well as her having been a prostitute, the latter of which seems to me to be an assumption because of her lifestyle and work as a laundress. From the research I did, which is admittedly inefficient, it seems many who have written on this subject assumed that most of the French laundresses were also prostitutes.

      I truly wanted to explore this subject more in depth, but honestly, with the conflicting information, I never did get clarity about the identity of Rosa la Rouge. There are paintings of Carmen Gaudin that do not look like Rosa, as well as some that do. If you have more information, I gladly invite your input.

      I also wrote another post about Rosa. (, which is a bit more personal, but not more informative.

      Thanks for your comment. Please return and/or comment further if you like. Have a beautiful day!

      Michelle aka ‘Rosa Blue’ (I obviously took my screen name, which I still use, from Rosa la Rouge). I love my little framed print of her and I like the name. There is so much more to Rosa la Rouge than her having possibly been a prostitute. She was obviously beautiful and mingled with very interesting friends. Thank you again. I enjoyed revisiting this post!



  3. Enjoyed the post! For some reason while I was reading it, I began to hear in my head the sounds of the Moulin-Rouge – people chatting, the orchestra (or would it have been called a band?) playing boisterously, the sound of high-heels on a hollow-wood stage as a line of chorus girls raise their skirts (and the male audience’s attention) as they Can-Can and bartenders whoop – and then it occurred to me to wonder what did Toulouse sound like ? Was his voice high or low? Did he have the nasal sounding accent like the actor, Maurice Chevalier? Don’t ask me why this came to mind or why I felt a desire to share it 😉 Just feeling silly tonight. Thanks for making me smile.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Leslie,
      I’m happy to know you enjoyed reading as I had not yet informed you that I used your image. I trust that you are fine with that since you had a good time! I love your imaginative vision! This post needed some oomph to it.
      I was concerned that I had used the images on the earlier version of this post incorrectly or worse, inappropriately as to copyrights. I think it is a much cooler post now with your “Too Loose to Trek” — and the curious wonderings you shared. Thanks for the silliness.



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