22.8.19

Balzac


The house where the novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) lived for some seven years (1840-47) has recently been reopened after some restoration works. This is where he finalised a large part of his famous “La Comédie Humaine”, some 91 stories, novels, essays… How many have you read? I have only read one, “The Père Goriot” (Old Goriot).  

Balzac always lived beyond his means and, as he now and then had some unwanted visitors, he was happy to live in a house with several exits, including to the small narrow street on the back side. We are in the Passy area of Paris, in the 16th arrondissement, and this old little house is now surrounded by fashionable apartment buildings.

The story of his life can be read on the walls of this little museum and there is also explained and showed how he meticulously modified and rectified his own texts, until they were at last published.

Some of his belongings can be seen, including his working chair and table, a coffee pot (he drank a lot of coffee), a very (too) expensive cane, one of his own pocket watches and one having belonged to the lady, the countess Ewelina Hanska, who he had know for a long time and who became his wife by the end of his life.


We can see part of his library.

In 1847 he and Mme Hanska moved into a nice building (bought with her money) in the 8th arrondissement, on what now is rue Balzac. The building is gone, but the museum shows its exterior and interior on paintings and also a mantelpiece, a door… which have been saved from the building which has disappeared..  

Balzac died at the age of 51. We can see what he looked like on a daguerreotype from 1842 – he was 43. The museum shows a number of busts, medals, drawings… of him. You can find him again at the Père Lachaise cemetery (bust by David d’Angers).


His statue (by Falguière) can be found close to where his last home was situated.

Of course, there is also a (less flattering) statue by Rodin to be found in the Montparnasse area, but we must remember that Rodin was only ten when Balzac died, so Balzac obviously never posed for him.. Rodin even made a naked Balzac – to be seen in Rodin’s Meudon Museum.     
         

19.8.19

Why are there elephants, crocodiles… ?


If you look up and see the walls of this Art Deco building, you must of course wonder for which reason it has some spectacular decorations?




Today, it’s easy to find out, you just grab your phone and write the address, 34, rue Pasquier (Paris 8). So, I learnt that the building dates from 1929 and that the original occupant was a bank named “Société financière française et coloniale”.  … and of course that the building is especially known for the reliefs which decorate the walls. They were created by a well-known sculptor, Georges Saupique (1889-1961), who has left many other landmarks in Paris and elsewhere. When you have learnt that the original owner was a banking company involved in colonial business, the motives are obvious. It was less obvious to find information about the architects, Alex and Pierre Fournier, but at least I found something on Pierre (1894-1958) and learnt that he later had the title of “architecte général de la Ville de Paris”.

The father of one of our former presidents, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, was heading the bank 1930-1973. What later happened to the bank is another story and the building has now other occupants.

15.8.19

The northern transept...


I have already posted about the Saint Denis Basilica, a long time ago… see here. There seems now to be a decision to again erect the left spire, which was in bad shape and was dismantled in 1847.

I visited the basilica again with a friend who is a great observer of details. My attention was drawn to the northern transept, to the left of the façade.

There are not only a large number of gargoyles, with their usual grotesque forms, here combined with some “humans”, but also...

... and, what perhaps is even more striking, a large number of small (kind of) animals all over the wall, some rather recognisable, but all again grotesque.  You should remember that they date from the 12th and 13th century - what a freedom of expression, what a spirit of creation… and all this on a basilica...




… which was erected to honour the decapitated Saint Denis, see the scene on top of the doors. (I wrote about this in a previous post.)   

I took also a photo of the clock on the façade with its serpent-formed needles. If you look closer you will see a frame with hundreds of “heads”. Maybe some close-ups, zooming, another time?


12.8.19

Glass-walk



Now, if you wish to admire the glass dome at the Galeries Lafayette, you can have a walk on a platform, a glass-walk!

You can look not only upwards…

… but also downwards. You are some 16m (52 ft) above ground.

I don’t know if the installation is considered to be permanent or not.  

Maybe women and Scots should be careful about what they wear?


8.8.19

Algarve holidays


Back in Paris. Spent some nice time in the south of Portugal, Algarve, with kids and grand-kids. Blue sky and a pleasant temperature of around 28°C (82°F) every day. I have already posted about this area in some previous posts, so now I will just show a few pictures.

First a little geographical reminder.
The house we had rented was up on a hill, close to the coast and the cities of…

… Faro and Olhao.

There are some islands in front of these cities which you can reach by boat and then find some fantastic beaches, far from overcrowded.

You find other beaches along the coast, some with crowds and some with less crowds - which you can reach by foot when the tide is low.

Going westwards, the landscape changes with high cliffs, with interruption for some sandy beaches.

At last, some pictures from smaller cities and villages… Lagos, Tavira… and the typical paved cobblestones, mostly white and black, sometimes red.