In 1863, the French painter Ernest Meissonier was one of the most famous artists in the world. The darling of the 'Salon' - that all important public art exhibition held biannually in Paris - he painted historical subjects in meticulous detail and sold his works for astronomical sums to collectors who included Napoleon III himself. Manet, on the other hand, was struggling in obscurity. Famous today as the father of Impressionism, when this books opens he was known only as the sloppy painter of a few much-derided canvases depicting absinthe-drinking beggars and bourgeois gentlemen in top hats. With his usual narrative brilliance and eye for telling detail Ross King has taken the parallel careers of Meissonier and Manet and used them as a lens for their times. Beginning with the year that Manet exhibited his ground-breaking Dejeuner sur l'herbe and ending in 1874 with the first 'Impressionist' exhibition, King plunges us into Parisian life - on the streets and in the corridors of power - during a ten-year period full of social and political ferment. These were the years in which Napoleon III's autocratic and pleasure-seeking Second Empire fell from its heights into the ignominy of
Ross King is the author of the hugely popular Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, both of which spent many weeks in the New York Times bestseller lists. He is also a novelist and lives near Oxford.