28.1.11

Saint Thomas d'Acquin Church

I never really noticed this church before, but on the way home after lunch the other day I had some time to spare, so I thought I would have a look. This is another of the some 130 catholic churches in Paris, the Saint Thomas d’Acquin Church. (When I came home I found out that Saint Thomas Aquinas was a 13th century Sicilian Dominican Doctor of Theology, working in Rome, Paris… His fame as a scholar made him the Patron Saint of Universities and Students.)

The church is a bit hidden and I believe not much visited by “tourists”, but I was struck by the beauty of its interior… however, first some history.

Originally, in 1632, a Dominican chapel was built here. The present church dates from 1683 under the name of Saint Dominique, connected to a Jacobin (Dominican) monastery. The origin of the name “Jacobins” for these Dominicans was that their original and major convent was established at rue Saint Jacques (James, Jacob…).

Just after the 1789 Revolution, the church was renamed Saint Thomas d’Acquin, but the church and the monastery were soon emptied in line with the Revolutionary ideas.

The “Jacobins” was also the (nick-)name of one of the leading movements during the Revolutionary years (Robespeierre…) and they were so called due to the fact that they used the (empty) premises of the Dominican Jacobins for their meetings, mostly at rue Saint Jacques, but also here.

The concordat between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII in 1801, allowed the church to be reopened for religious services, but the monastery buildings have since been occupied by the Army. Napoleon and Josephine came here as Godparents for a baptism in 1802.

Pope Pius VII held a mass in this church December 26, 1804. The Pope had come to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon as emperor some three weeks earlier (December 2). (You should read the story of Pius VII, it’s fascinating.) On the famous painting by David (at the Louvre, copy at Versailles), we can see Pius VII.
What the Pope could not admire then was a large part of the beautiful wall and ceiling (especially the “Transfiguration”) decorations, mostly added during the 19th century, nor the stained glass windows, from 1902.

The organ (1777) is by F-H Clicquot, member of the family which made most of the famous French organs (nothing to do with “Veuve Clicquot”).



25.1.11

Paris skyscrapers (?)

Basically there are no skyscrapers in Paris… with a few exceptions. To keep the skyline, there is a general limit set to 25 m (82 ft), with - depending on the area of Paris - an allowance of max. 37 m (121 ft). The most striking exceptions to the general rules are obviously the Tour Montparnasse (210 m = 690 ft) (see previous post), inaugurated in 1973 and the hotel Concorde Lafayette (137 m = 450 ft), opened in 1974, both much criticized. In 1975 it was decided never to allow such exceptions again, although some fairly high buildings (close to 100 m = 328 ft) were e.g. constructed close to Place d’Italie (“Italie 13”) and on the Seine banks (“Front de Seine” see previous post) in the 1970’s.
Now there are again talks about some allowance for higher buildings, but close to the Paris borders – not in the city centre. Space for offices and living are needed in a living city and there is no space left. Paris is actually a relatively small city, surface-wise, with only some 2 million inhabitants … the remaining about 10 millions are living in the suburbs, what is referred to as “Ile-de-France”.
I thought it may be interesting to show you the small Paris, split up in its 20 arrondissements.
The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Invalides Dome, the Pantheon, Sacré Coeur … were obviously constructed before the rules became too strict!
So the skyscrapers we see on the top picture are actually outside Paris, although Paris is part of the name the area has got – “Paris La Défense” (see previous post). Constructed during the last 50 years – here is a view in the opposite direction.
The top photo was taken from the temporary (Christmas holidays) Ferris wheel on Place de la Concorde. Together with Virginia, we took a tour or two the day before she returned to Alabama.
To compare with the top photo, here is also a non-zoomed photo …
... and another one taken in the opposite direction – the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre.

21.1.11

More statues and tombs - Montmartre Cemetery

Some more tombs (there are some 20 thousand) and another cat (there are at least tens of them) from the Montmartre Cemetery. Many of them are also remarkable for their sculptures, statues…

Henri Murger (1822-61) belonged to a group of artists, referring to themselves as “water drinkers” (too poor to drink anything else). He invented the expression “bohèmes” (bohemians) to describe the characters of poor artists, living just for art (long-haired, smoking opium pipes…), in opposition to the “bourgeois”. He had some small jobs, among others as secretary to a Count Léon Tolsotoï (not the author) and had considerable success with a feuilleton, then published as a book – “Scènes de la vie de bohème”. However, he died quite young and poor, but popular. A large crowd attended the funeral and money was collected to pay a (more than) decent tomb.
Some 35 years after his death, the Puccini opera “La Bohème”, based on Burger’s writings, had its première (conducted by Toscanini). It has become one of the most played operas. Other operas, films and the musical “Rent” has Murger’s work as basis.


This tomb, and its statue, has something in common with another tomb – see below; the same artist made the statues. His name was Aimé Millet (1819-91). He had some eminent art teachers, and later, as a teacher, some eminent pupils. His name is perhaps not so well-known today, but he’s the one who among many other statues made the one on top of Opéra Garnier (see previous post) and also the one of Vercingétorix at Alésia. (Millet is also buried at the Montmartre Cemetery; a simple grave without statue.)
So, the other statue by Millet at the Montmartre Cemetery is on the tomb of Jean-Baptiste Baudin (1811-51). He was a doctor and member of parliament, famous for having been shot down on the barricades in opposition to the coup d’état by the future Napoleon III. He became a hero for the Republicans. He got a statue close to Place de la Bastille (see previous posts), but it disappeared with many other statues during the Nazi occupation. At least this one on his tomb remains.
There is a certain resemblance between this tomb and the one of Godefroy Cavaignac (1801-45), easily found close to the entrance and visible from the bridge that crosses the cemetery. Godefroy Cavaignac was another republican hero, journalist. Observer and defender in opposition to a massacre, called the “red night”, which took place in 1834, he was one of 164 “conspirators” who were imprisoned, but he organized (together with Barbès) an evasion - they were 26 - a year later. He was also largely celebrated by the Republicans when buried.
This recumbent effigy of Cavaignac is created by a great sculptor, François Rude (1784-1855), whose most remarkable work is perhaps “the Marseillaise” on the Arc of Triumph (see previous posts), but several of his works can be seen around Paris and its museums.
There are more remarkable statues by remarkable sculptors around. I will be back!

17.1.11

The Church of Saint Roch

The present Church of Saint Roch replaced previous chapels and churches and was built during a long period over the 16th, 17th and 18th century with a number of architects involved. It was finally completed in 1754. The design is a bit special with a series of chapels in succession.

Apart from the fact that the church is beautiful, there are some points which may be highlighted. The Marquis de Sade got married here. Some illustrious people are buried in the church including Diderot and the Baron d’Holbach (see previous post about the “philosophers”), Corneille, the garden architect (Versailles…) André le Notre…

The church has also a special chapel dedicated to the deported during WWII, normally hardly seen inside a catholic church. 
Another, maybe less well-known personality buried here is Jean-Michel de l’Epée, a priest who around 1760 created the world’s first public school for the deaf. He did not invent the sign language, but it was somehow rather created by the teachers and pupils in the school and later much improved and simplified. He’s referred to as one of the fathers of deaf education.
A lot of concerts are given here, including at lunch hours all Tuesdays (free of charge).

Saint Roch is also known for an event which took place in front of it, in 1795, when Bonaparte (aged 26) led a troop which killed some 200 “royal rioters” on the steps leading to the church. This is known as a “Whiff of Grapeshot” and thanks to this Bonaparte was rewarded with the command of the Army of Italy a year later… thus an important step on his way to become Napoleon. You can still see the traces of the “whiff” on the front of the church. (I wrote about these and other wall "traces" in previous posts, see here and here.)



There are still some shops attached to the church building. One of them, very small, pretends to have been there since 1638. It was originally a shop where religious items could be bought, then, during some 200 years, a barber shop, now an antique shop.

15.1.11

Libretto authors - Montmartre Cemetery

After a short break, here is something more from the Montmartre Cemetery … and another cat.

Although you may, which is my case, prefer operas and operettas for the music, not so much for the story told, often resumed to something like “I love you”, “No you don’t” or “I’m dying”, “No you must not”… But words are needed. Two friends are buried at the Montmartre Cemetery. During twenty years they worked together on a major part of Offenbach’s operettas - or vice versa. So, at the cemetery, we can find the three, who together created “La Belle Hélène”, “La Vie Parisienne”, “La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein”, “La Périchole”… (See about Offenbach's tomb on previous post.)

We are talking about Ludovic Halévy (1837-1907)…
… and Henri Meilhac (1831-97).
(The lady in sorrow on Meilhac’s tomb is by Paul Bartholomé (1848-1928), who also made the great mortal monument at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.)

The two also wrote a great number of theatre plays, comedies, together… everything with great success.

In the tomb of Ludovic Halévy rests also his uncle Jacques Halévy (1799-1862). He was a musician and composer, today a bit forgotten, but one of his pupils was George Bizet. Jacques had two daughters, one was engaged to Ludovic, but she died before the marriage. The other one, Géneviève, married George Bizet....
… and Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac wrote also the libretto to Carmen by Georges Bizet (who is buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery)!


Bizet died young, Géneviève got remarried, held a salon where not only Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac, but also Degas (who painted Ludovic, see above), de Maupassant, Proust were frequent guests and Géneviève appears (with other names) in some of the writings of the two latter. She was also a leading personality to reestablish the honour of Louis Drefuys.

11.1.11

The fourth apple.

A new, somewhat astonishing, statue was inaugurated yesterday, close to Place de Clichy. It replaces a statue of Charles Fourier (1772-1837), which, in 1942 together with a multitude of other Paris statues disappeared during the Nazi occupation; the bronze was needed for other purposes.

Charles Fourier was what you may consider as a predecessor to socialism, utopian socialism, well before Marx, Engels… He was also the creator of the word “feminism” and defended the liberty of women. He claimed poverty to be the major cause of “disorder in society”, that work should be correctly paid and even those who could not work should receive a decent minimum. Every man, woman and child should be offered the chance to education. He proposed an – utopian - kind of society where workers of both sexes should be recompensed according to their contribution and where their work should be adapted to their interest and desires. This could take place in what he called “phalanstères”, grand “hotels” where people would live together in total and self-contained community. Some experiences were made in Europe and in the States, even after his death, but they did not survive as such. Some buildings are still there (e.g. at Guise, an hour’s drive north of Paris).

His ideas were perhaps utopian, but they are still referred to and several societies are there to defend them or at least keep them in memory.
Why an apple? Why what he called “the fourth apple”? Fourier was of course against the then beginning capitalism, the commercialism… He noted that an apple in Paris could cost 100 times more than where it was produced. He made this to a symbol. The three preceding symbolic apples were the one Adam gave to Eve, the “apple of discord” that was given to Venus / Aphrodite, and the apple that was supposed to have dropped on Newton’s head. (Without a plate explaining this and giving a brief story about Charles Fourier I guess unfortunately that most people passing by will wonder why this apple is here.)

So, instead of trying to remake the original statue, the Paris authorities decided to go for an apple. Created by Franck Scurti it was then placed on the original base (surrounded by coloured, transparent “windows”) and thus now officially inaugurated by the mayors of the 9th and 18th arrondissements. (It stands just on the border).
Charles Fourier is buried at the nearby Montmartre cemetery.

7.1.11

Christmas is (almost) over!

Christmas is over and Christmas decorations disappear. However yesterday, the spectacular decoration of Place Vendôme was still there. I could not resist, although the intensity of different light sources made it difficult to reproduce the right impression. I did my best. (There is one photo taken in the late afternoon dusk as a comparison.)
I already made a post about Place Vendôme - with a different Christmas decoration - three years ago on my previous blog, so I’m not going to repeat the description and the history of this place.

As, we all know, this is the place where you would buy your jewelry and if you have some money left, you can have suite at Hôtel Ritz (see top picture).

3.1.11

The beginning of impressionism

I have the pleasure to live in the Batignolles area, part of the 17th arrondissement. This is where the impressionist movement was started. Most of the involved artists lived and worked here during their young years. There are especially three places on the Avenue de Clichy, close to Place de Clichy, which are very much linked to the start of the movement.
The most famous of these spots is perhaps the “Café Guerbois”. With the slightly older Edouard Manet as a respected leader, many of those who later were to become world famous, around 1870, met there regularly for lively discussions and some drinking – Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, not forgetting Frédéric Bazille (see below). They were also joined by Emile Zola, who made a lot to promote these painters, to be known as the “Batignolles Group”. One of the painters was Henri Fantin-Latour who made a famous painting from Manet’s workshop, where we can recognize Manet painting, surrounded by Renoir, Zola, Bazille, Monet… The café is not there anymore; today replaced by a men’s clothing shop. The drawing from the place is by Manet.
Immediate neighbour was the cabaret and restaurant “Père Lathuille”, founded in 1765 and to which is linked a specific event during a battle between the Russian and French troops in 1814, which took place just around the corner. The owner offered free meals and drinking to the French soldiers: “Eat and drink, my friends. Leave nothing to the enemy”! Manet made a famous painting, “Chez le Père Lathuille” (1879). The place is still there but completely transformed. In 1906 it became « Kursaal » where among others Maurice Chevallier performed. Later it was transformed to a cinema theatre and so it’s still today, since 1996 a quite specific one, “Le Cinéma des Cinéastes” supported by some of leading French film makers and concentrating on quality films. Some old equipment is exposed and on the walls behind I would like to believe that some of the original decoration has been saved. (There is also a small bar, which has inherited the “Père Lathuille” name.)
On the other side of what used to be the “Café Guerbois” is a small shop. Founded in 1830 under the name of Hennequin. This is where Manet and the future impressionist painters bought their paint and brushes. It seems that it has since more or less stayed with the same family although the painting equipment lost its importance. The shop has been sold and was closed December 31, 2010. It will now probably be transformed to a shop for cheap shoes or something similar. At least, the nice mosaic decoration should be saved.
Not far away (Rue La Condamine) used to be a workshop (the building has been replaced) where Frédéric Bazille made a painting of his colleague painters, visiting him. It seems that Renoir, Monet and Sisley at moments have occupied the same workshop. Bazille was the only one of the group who was fairly wealthy and he often shared his workshops with some of his poor colleagues. He was extremely talented, but was killed in 1870, at the age of 29, during the Franco-Prussian war. On the painting we can see him (his face painted by Manet) surrounded by Manet and Monet. Zola on the stairs is discussing with Renoir. Zola lived on the other side of the street in a backyard. The building is still there and I managed to slip through the gate, but when I tried to take a photo I was more or less kindly asked by a lady to leave the premises. (I took a photo through the small opening under the gate.)
You have a feeling that the group went along well together. There are a number of paintings where they have portrayed each other. Here are some examples. (It may be noted that when Bazille moved from one workshop to another, the chair followed.)
Another person who met with the “Batignolles group” at “Café Guerbois” was Nadar, who as from 1850 took photos of most of those days’ celebrities – Liszt, Wagner, Berlioz, Rossini, Offenbach, George Sand, Sarah Bernhardt, de Maupassant… and some painters. What was to become the start of the impressionism was an exhibition which took place in Nadar’s workshop in 1874. The building is still there, but of course transformed (Boulevard des Capucines). Cézanne, Degas, Guillaumin, Monet, Morisot, Pisarro, Renoir, Sisley… exposed and the name of impressionism was created thanks to some (negative) critics referring to Monet’s “Impression, soleil levant” ("Impression, sunrise", see also top picture), painted in 1872. This painting is today to be seen at the Marmottan Museum (see previous post), which has the world’s most complete collection of Monet paintings (and other artists).
Dr. Gachet was another visitor to « Café Guerbois ». An art sponsor and collector, he’s of course especially related to van Gogh. It may be worth mentioning that van Gogh (together with Toulouse-Lautrec) managed to expose at the “Grand Bouillon-Restaurant du Chalet” a bit further down Avenue de Clichy, around 1888, during the short time he lived in Paris. He made also a painting of the place. Of course he didn’t sell anything. But now we have left the impressionists for the post-impressionists. The restaurant has of course disappeared, replaced by a modern building and a supermarket.