Art: Birthday in Autumn

On a chill, rainy October evening in 1903, an impressive procession of elegant carriages made its way along the Avenue des Champs Elysėes in Paris. As each carriage reached the door of the Petit Palais, it discharged its passengers: beauteous ladies in turn-of-the-century feathers and frills, aristocratic gentlemen in dove-grey redingotes and embroidered vests.

Many of the women gave little gasps of surprise when they saw the garland of new-fangled electric lamps decorating the entrance to the Palais' cellar. When they went down the stairs, they and their escorts found more reason for...

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