The Café de la Rotonde is a famous café in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris, France. Located on the Carrefour Vavin, at the corner of Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard Raspail, it was founded by Victor Libion in 1911. Along with Le Dome and La Coupole it was renowned as an intellectual gathering place for notable artists and writers during the interwar period. Picasso portrayed two diners in the cafe in his painting “In the cafe de la Rotonde” in 1901; as did the Russian artist Alexandre Jacovleff aka Alexander Yevgenievich Yakovlev in the similarly titled “In the Cafe de la Rotonde“. Even today the café remains a popular meeting place for the city's intelligentsia.
During this creative era, proprietor Libion allowed starving artists to sit in his café for hours, nursing a ten-centime cup of coffee and looked the other way when they broke the ends from a baguette in the bread basket. If an impoverished painter couldn't pay their bill, Libion would often accept a drawing, holding it until the artist could pay. As such, there were times when the café's walls were littered with a collection of artworks, that today would make the curators of the world's greatest museums drool with envy. The painting of two men above is by Tullio Garbari. The walls really are covered in paintings.
Across the street is the first bronze casting of Rodin's Balzac. This is a statue you either love or hate. It took Rodin seven years to complete the commission and in 1898 the statue was rejected by the Société des Gens de Lettres. It was placed here on July 2, 1939, 22 years after Rodin's death. In a message to writer Charles Chincholle in May, 1898, Rodin explained his artistic pursuit:
“The only thing I realize today is that the neck is too strong. I thought I had to enlarge it because according to me, modern sculpture must exaggerate the forms from the moral point of view. Through the exaggerated neck I wanted to represent strength, I realize that the execution exceeded the idea.”
The restaurant was crowded, even on a Tuesday night. Le Dôme, another famous restaurant is just across the street and La Coupole is just down the street. Opening in 1898, Le Dôme was the first such café in Montparnasse. Le Dôme later became the gathering place of the American literary colony and became a focal point for artists residing in Paris's Left Bank.
The food was good, I had a dozen oysters to start, the lamb shoulder as my plat, Lisa had the salmon and we shared a large helping of haricot verts. They do a big business in fresh oysters, I saw at least two platters with 3-4 dozen oysters. The service was excellent and I can easily recommend La Rotunde, TripAdvisor also seems to like it. The neighborhood is very pleasant with lots of cafes and shops. It is busy but the location and sense of history you get here, makes it a worthwhile visit when you come to Paris.
As we were leaving, the moon was just beginning to peek out. The metro station, Vavin, was a few steps from the restaurant, and we ended a very nice night in Paris.
Official Website: http://www.rotondemontparnasse.com/
Le Dôme sketch: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=610103