Those memories with Gaillard's
“small as a cork” bistro in the 8th arrondissement, which gained its
reputation as a hallowed haunt after socialite irma de Montigny
stopped in and started bringing her fabulous friends to revel
in the cozy space and enjoy the delicacies concocted by
chef Henri Chauveau. However, Gaillard would soon fall ill and
bequeathed the restaurant—then under a mountain of unpaid
tabs—to his maître d’hôtel eugene Cornuché. Cornuché and
Chauveau would bring Maxim’s into its golden age with an iconic
Art nouveau redesign by architect Louis Marnez—completed just
in time for the 1900 World’s Fair.
“their mission: to break with Greek inspiration and to promote
a return to nature,” writes Hesse. “the interior was transformed
into a veritable stage set dominated by a deep, dark red.
Banquettes, woodwork, carpets, and draperies took on the color
of power—and of desire. And then there were the beams and
beveled mirrors, murals and paintings, foliage and ornaments of
copper.” With tiffany lamps accenting animal shaped furniture,
flora filigreed woodwork, and paintings of women “bare, or
almost so, but without the slightest vulgarity,” Maxim’s interiors
became a hallmark of black tie Belle Epoque excess. though
interior photography was banned in those days, the vibe was
captured in the sketches of Georges Goursat, aka sem, whom
Hesse smartly gives wide berth in the book.