Paris documentation

Since a couple of months I’m a "Greeters" member. This is an international organization, offering guiding on a voluntary basis. In Paris we are soon 200 guides. You can read more by clicking under “Parisien d’un jour” on my sidebar and also have a look on a previous post.

With a few other guides we were last week invited to visit the “Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris”, a public library specializing in the history of Paris. It all officially started in 1763 in the building we visited, “Hôtel de Lamoignon”. The Revolution stopped this activity here and a lot got lost. A new collection was commenced at the Paris City Hall, but was almost completely lost when the building was destroyed by fire in 1871 (the "Commune" events). One started to collect again and the material moved to different places until it in 1969 came back to a completely restored "Hôtel de Lamoignon". Today you can find some two million documents of all kinds, referring to the history of Paris and its immediate surroundings. It’s open to public during the weekdays.

The building dates from the 16th century and was originally built for Diane de France (1538-1619), an illegitimate daughter of Henri II. She had quite some influence on the “peace” between Catholics and Protestants, was much appreciated by Henri IV and took care of the education of the future Louis XIII. Her two kids died before her and the place was taken over by her nephew Charles d’Angoulème (1573-1650), also illegitimate, son of Charles IX – grandson of Catherine de’ Medici (a lot to say about him, but…).
Both Diane and Charles were buried in a small church, “Minimes” on the present Place des Vosges (see previous post), destroyed during the Revolution, but the statues decorating their graves were found – in pieces -, restored and are now to be seen in a small annex to the major building, decorated by a stained glass window where we can see the heraldic sign of the Royal family, with the “fleurs de lis”. However, as illegitimate, bastards, they had a special sign, a broken baton, which you can see in the red circle.
The building got its name from the Lamoignon family, heads of the Paris Parliament (High Court of Justice) for generations. One member was Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (1721-94), minister under Louis XVI, who tried to introduce reforms of the autocratic regime, later defended Louis XVI during his trial and was the one who had to announce the death sentence to the King.

Later the hotel was inhabited by Alphonse Daudet (1840-97) – “Lettres de mon Moulin” (Letters from my windmill ), including “L’Arlésienne” (put into music by Bizet), “Tatarin de Tarascon”…

Immediate neighbour to "Hôtel de Lamoignon" was another large private mansion, later transformed to a prison, “La Force”. It has been destroyed, but you can still see traces of the wall separating it to Hôtel Lamoignon. Many were imprisoned, killed or brought to the guillotine from here during the Revolution. The most famous prisoner was perhaps the Princess Lamballe, one of Marie-Antoinette’s best friends, who was killed on the steps of the prison. Her head was carried on a pike in front of the Temple (see previous posts) where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned.
We had the privilege to be guided by a very qualified member of the staff, who showed us a few examples of what can be found in the library, including some illuminated and early printed books from the 15th century… and a “guest book” from the famous 19th century cabaret “Chat Noir”. Very popular until 1897 when the owner died, the cabaret moved a few times around the Montmartre – Pigalle area; the last place was on Boulevard de Clichy (building destroyed). Guests included most of those days’ artistic elite, with names like Verlaine, Debussy, Satie, Alphone Allais, Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert, Strindberg … and Aristide Bruant, portrayed by Toulouse-Lautrec... I would have liked to spend hours with this guest book, but I guess I will have to wait until it has been digitalized.


More spring signs

I guess some (not all) of you have felt that there has been a bit too much of cemeteries, statues… lately and some – in the northern hemisphere - have expressed wishes for proofs of spring. So here are some signs – photos from yesterday from “my” local park, Square des Batignolles. It’s still quite grey here, so you have to look closely, for the little details…
This duck looked at little bit depressive; only male ducks in sight.
Also, the pigeon seemed confused. Maybe he (she?) had understood? The municipality has kindly offered some nice lodging to the local pigeons; bed and breakfast. The problem – at least for the pigeons – is that what they eat lead to sterilized eggs. This is how the municipality tries to control the number of the pigeons. It’s clear that in the meantime, they are clearly attracted by these “hotels”. They have abandoned some of their previous favourite trees in the park and have adopted another one, just close to the “hotel”.


Parc Monceau (bis)

On my way through the Park Monceau a couple of days ago, a grey and chilly day, I thought I should after all look for some spring signs … and, if you look closely, there seems to be some hope.
This is thus not the best moment to try to illustrate this beautiful park, but if you want to see it a bit greener, you are welcome to visit a post on my previous blog, from May 2007, when I more or less started blogging. But there is more than trees and flowers to see in this park, created during the 18th century as a private park for a member of the Royal family, but “bought” back by the French state in 1852.

To get into the park, you will admire the gates, designed by an architect, Gabriel Davioud (1824-81), who created a lot; the two theatres and the fountain at Place du Chatêlet (see previous post), the Palais du Trocadéro (not there anymore, see previous post), the Saint Michel Fountain (see previous post), not forgetting the little park, close to where I live (see previous posts)… and much more.
The park has a number of – false – old monuments. The arcade around the pond is one of the most popular places for “marriage photos”.
Many private mansions were built around the park during the 19th century. Now they tend to be museums (Nissim de Camondo – see previous post, Cernuschi) or fashionable office buildings.
This is also where you can find one of the (originally 62) remaining lodges where you were supposed to pay taxes in order to bring merchandise into the city of Paris. They were along the Wall of the Farmers-General, which represented the city limits until 1860. You can read more about this in some of my previous posts, e.g. here.
The first ever parachutist (André-Jacques Gamerin) landed in the park, jumping from a balloon in 1797. Da Vinci designed …, but – fortunately - never jumped!
The park is also known for a number of monuments, erected late 19th, early 20th century to commemorate some personalities.

One statue, (by Jacques Froment-Meurice) represents Fréderic Chopin (1810-49), composing “Marche Funèbre” (Funeral March). Below you can listen to it, performed by Valentina Igoshina.

Another statue (by Antoine Mercié, who we also saw represented in the Montmartre Cemetery – see previous post) is of Charles Gounod (1818-93), surrounded by the heroines of some of his operas; Marguerite (Faust), Juliette (Romeo and Juliet), Sapho.
We can listen to Leontyne Price singing Gounod’s version of “Ave Maria” (the melody is superimposed over a prelude by Bach, part of the Well-Tempered Clavier…)

… and Anna Gheorghiu in the role of Juliet.

A third composer is Ambroise Thomas (1811-96), someone I guess most of us have forgotten, but he was much appreciated during his lifetime. The statue is by Alexandre Falguière (1831-1900), a quite successful sculptor, here portrayed by his friend Rodin. Ambroise Thomas wrote some 20 operas; Mignon, Hamlet (starring Christine Nilsson when first performed)… You can still quite often hear excerpts for concert use, but not so often the entire operas, although Hamlet could be heard at the New York Met as late as 2010.
Maybe more for “fun” we can listen to a 12 year old Julie Andrews singing “Je suis Titiania” (from Mignon)…

… and in another version by Maria Callas.

Antoine Mercié also made the statue of Alfred de Musset (1810-57), dramatist, poet, novelist … to a large extent known for a two year love affair with George Sand, preceding Frederic Chopin. He could also draw; you can see a portrait he made of George Sand. Alcoholic, he died quite young,

His most famous theatre play is perhaps Lorenzaccio, with 36 scenes and some 400 actors… It was first played only some 40 years after Musset’s death, in a simplified version, starring Sarah Bernhardt (the poster is by Alfonse Mucha). The leading role has alternatively been played by women and men (Gérard Philippe…).
Another name of someone, who we may have forgotten today, was Edouard Pailleron (1834-99), again much appreciated during his lifetime (monument by L-B Bernstamm), author, member of the French Academy and director of the National Theatre (“La Comédie Française”). John Singer Sargent was a friend of the family and painted all the members.
Interesting is perhaps that the young lady admiring Edouard Pailleron is an actress, Jeanne Samary (1857-90), very popular, but who died early, at 33. She was portrayed several times by Renoir and appears also on his famous “Le déjeuner des canotiers” (Luncheon of the boating party), painted at the “impressionist tavern” La Fournaise on which I previously made a post.
The last monument (by Raoul Verlet) is of another frequent guest at the same tavern, Guy de Maupassant (1850-93). A little text written by him can be found inside the La Fournaise tavern. I think there is no need to say too much here about one of the most loved French authors.
At last, a bit of geography.


Film directors - Montmartre Cemetery

I will soon try to do something else than about the Montmartre Cemetery, but… In the meantime, another cat. This time it will be about film directors, maybe more or less known abroad, but with a great reputation in France.

Claude Autant-Lara (1901-2000) - who he spent a few years in his youth in Los Angeles and made some French versions, copies (yes, that’s how it was one those years), of among others some Buster Keaton and Douglas Fairbanks Jr films - made the rest of his career in France. He made some – at least in France – famous films before (during) and after WWII, did not get sufficiently “modern” according to critics (the "French New Wave”-period) and stopped filming in the 70’s. During his later years, Autant-Lara had an unfortunate political, extreme right, activity.
Below you can see an extract of the film “En cas de malheur” (In case of adversity) from 1958, with Jean Gabin and Brigitte Bardot, censored when the film was released.

envoyé par kirivalse. - Un accés privé avec plus de vidéos sexy.

Henri-George Clouzot (1907-77) rests together with his wife Vera, who appeared in several of his films. He had a long career, first as a screen writer and as from 1942 as film director. His later life was disturbed by health problems and his last film dates from 1968.

Many of his films were great critic and public successes. “Le salaire de la peur” (The wages of fear) with Yves Montand released in 1953 won the “Palme d’Or” in Cannes and the “Golden Bear” in Berlin and got some American remakes by Otto Preminger, William Friedkin…. “Les diaboliques” (The devils) with Simone Signoret (1955) also got several more or less successful remakes, including one from 1996 with Sharon Stone, Isabelle Adjani, Kathy Bates...
Here you can see an extract from some tests that Clouzot made with Romy Schneider for a film to be titled “L’enfer”, but which had to be interrupted because of his ill-health.

François Truffaut (1932-84), after a tough youth as an illegitimate child, started as film critic and he was one of those who actually a lot criticized the above directors. His first full-length quite self-biographic film “Les 400 coups” (The 400 blows) was released in 1959, got the Best Director-award at Cannes and represented somehow the real beginning of the French New Wave movement (Godard, Chabrol…). He made later several films with the same, then very young, actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud. His second film, “Tirer sur le pianist” (Shoot the piano player), starred Charles Aznavour, who by the way was one of Truffaut’s neighbours during his young, very unhappy, years.

Among his most famous films, maybe some special mentions for “Jules and Jim” (1962) starring Jeanne Moreau, “Fahrenheit 451” (1965) with Julie Christie and Oscar Werner, his only English-speaking film, “La Sirène de Mississippi” (Mississppi Mermaid) (1969) with Catherine Deneuve and Paul Belmondo, “La nuit américaine” (Day for night) (1973) with Jacqueline Bisset which won an Oscar as Best Foreign Film, “The story of Adèle H” (1975) with Isabelle Adjani (nominated for Best Actress Oscar), “The Last Metro” (1980) with (again) Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu…

Truffaut died too young of a brain cancer in 1984.

Here you can see an extract from “Jules and Jim” when Jeanne Moreau sings…

… and just for pleasure, when 45 years later, Vanessa Paradis (Johnny Depp’s partner in life) sings the same tune during the Cannes Film Festival.

Truffaut was a great admirer of Hitchcock and Spielberg and made an appearance Speilberg’s “Close encounters of the third kind” (1977).

As usual, here is a plan to show you where you can find these tombs.


Statues, sculptures - Montmartre Cemetery

We haven’t yet left the Montmartre Cemetery. I have too many photos and I just have to show them. :-)

Below, there are some examples of the many statues, sculptures, you can find, especially on the older 19th century tombs, but also on some of the more recent ones. Some of these statues have already appeared in previous posts, but most of them are new.

But first... I would like to draw the special attention to a few, which I have not shown before.

The top photo is of one of the most beautiful ladies in the cemetery. It was made by the mother of a young man; he died at the age of 20 in 1910 and was called Robert Didsbury. Surprisingly enough I have found no information about the mother, who obviously was a very gifted sculptor. It seems that it is a self-portrait and goes under the name of "Douleur". The brother of Robert who died in 1971 is also buried here as well as a Jacqueline Didsbury, who was born the same year as Robert died; she died in 1995. Is the mother also buried here?

A second tomb is the rest place of David Iffla (1825-1907), better known under the name of “Osiris”. The statue (by Antonin Mercié) is a copy of the Michelangelo statue of Moses which can be found on the tomb of the Pope Julius II in the Saint Peter Church in Rome.

David Iffla was known under the name of Osiris, an Egyptian god, the god of “afterlife”. I have found two explanations why he took this name, one that this was the name of a ship he saw in Bordeaux during his childhood; the other one should be linked to his adoration of his wife, who died young (the "afterlife"). “Osiris” was a very wealthy – and generous - man, who gave his money to charity, to the building of several synagogues, to artists, to the creation of Marie Curie’s Radium Institute … and who bought and renovated the Château de Malmaison, the home of Josephine de Beauharnais (and Napoleon) and offered it to the French state. Today it’s a museum well worth a visit (in the Paris suburb Rueil-Malmaison).
On the grave of another wealthy man, who worked for the fashion house Nina Ricci, Klaus Peter Preis (1936-2003), an important and generous art collector who donated a lot to museums, is a statue by Paul Landowski. Paul Landowski (1875-1961) has made a great number of sculptures - some 50 to be found only in Paris – and has his own museum (at Boulogne-Billancourt, another Paris suburb) - including the “Sainte Genevieve” on the Pont de la Tournelle (see previous post), “Les fils de Caïn” in the Tuileries Gardens (see previous posts), a monument to the glory of the French army, Place de Trocadéro (see previous posts: 1, 2)… He is of course particularly famous for the “Christ de Corcovado” (Christ the Redeemer) at Rio de Janeiro.

And now a collage of other statues and sculptures:

Here is where you can find the specific statues I referred to above: