Francisque Poulbot

I recently made a post on the improvements which have taken place at the Montmartre Museum. Last weekend an event took place there, in the gardens, where so many nice well-known paintings have been made. A sculpture, bust, was inaugurated. The person who was brought into honour was Francisque Poulbot (1879-1946), affichiste and illustrator, especially known for the drawings of the local Montmartre street kids, urchins, so famous that they now are just referred to as “poulbots”. The house where he spent his last years is nearby and you can find some of his kids as decoration. (I posted about him a long time ago.)

Francisque Poulbot was also also co-creator of the “Montmartre Republic”, of the local vineyard, the “Clos de Montmartre” (see previous post) and a lot of other things which somehow saved Montmartre, from destruction, over-exploiting… 

The “Montmartre Republic” colours were there and a lot of people (despite the first really cold day of the season).

There were of course speeches by Presidents of the “Montmartre Republic”, of the “Old Montmartre” (Le Vieux Montmartre) association, of the Montmartre Museum and of the “Francisque Poulbot Friends” and we heard a song dedicated to Francisque by Alain Turban (who will have a Montmartre “show” at the famous “Olympia” February 3) …

With the crowd, it was not easy to get good close-ups…

…  but, when it was almost all over I managed to get closer. I also took a photo of the bust creator, Agnès Rispal, talking to one of the invited persons, Christian Cabrol, an eminent, now retired, cardiologist, who among many other medical exploits executed the first European heart transplantation in 1968.

We then joined the little “Poulbot Orchestra” for a little aperitif.

Something completely different: Close to the Montmartre Museum there is a little one-room flat where the composer Erik Satie lived 1890-98. He had then a short love story with the painter (who also worked as model for Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec…) Suzanne Valadon (who lived where the museum now is), he played as “bar pianist” at the famous cabaret “Chat Noir”. All of you may not know his name, but I’m rather convinced that you will recognize his music. Below you can even listen to a free version by “Blood, Sweat & Tears”.


N and F

When you wished to write a nice N and F in 1407, it would look like this. These letters can be read on what is stated to be the oldest house of living in Paris (forgetting about some churches, walls, monuments…). The proof is to be found on the building itself, included in a text we can be read on the front. I will revert to this below. I already posted about this house on my old blog, but here is a closer look.

The house is referred to as the house of Nicolas Flamel, situated on Rue de Montmorency, so what we can read are his intitials. It’s not quite “his” house… but first a few words about Nicolas Flamel.

He was a scrivener and manuscript seller, born around 1330-40, who died in 1418. He made well, married a fairly wealthy young widow, Pernelle, and they made lot of donations to help the less fortunate. The house we see here is an example. It was built for homeless people … and there were many of them (also) those days - war, hunger, plague… 

The street is so narrow that it's impossible to get a decent photo. I made a patchwork of the ground floor.

There are a number of inscriptions in words and pictures on the pillars and there is especially the long text covering the whole wall over the front doors and windows. Some help is needed to understand the ancient French. Word spelling and typography have changed quite a bit over years. … and there are no accents, no punctuation. One can also note the « tilde », here as a (more known in Spanish and Portuguese as a ~), originally written over a letter as a mark of abbreviation. Here we can e.g. see the “homes”, with a above the "m", which thus should be understood as “hommes” (“men” in English).

The text would in English be something like: “We ploughmen and women living at the porch of this house, built in 1407, are requested to say every day an Our Father and an Ave Maria, praying God that His grace forgive poor and dead sinners. Amen.”

On the front pillars, there is thus a lot to be read and seen. Going from one pillar to the other one can guess an “Ora et Labora” (Pray and Work) and some other smaller inscriptions, prayers?, only partially remaining.

The interior now houses a restaurant. According to the restaurant manager, some of the wooden pillars inside are far older than the house.

A few more words about Nicolas Flamel: Born without fortune, people were surprised to see how wealthy he became. His name has been linked to alchemy. There seems to be no proof of it, but a lot of texts published later have referred to Nicolas Flamel. This would then include the idea of the Philosopher’s Stone, which is supposed to make it possible to turn base metals into gold.

Nicolas Flamel had his home just in front of the church, Saint Jacques de le Boucherie, of which now remains only the tower, “Tour Saint Jacques” (see previous post). The house later fell into pieces, as people, looking for gold, more or less destroyed the basement. It was finally completely demolished (as well as the church), when Rue de Rivoli was opened early 19th century. Nicloas and Pernelle have got their street names here. (See map below.)

Nicolas and Pernelle were buried in the then still existing church, Saint Jacques de la Boucherie. He prepared the tombstone, which many years after the destruction of the church was found by coincidence as a tray for displaying fish on an open market. It can now be found in the Cluny Museum in Paris (see previous post).Reverting to the alchemy … and the lack of proof: It seems that the tombstone has some alchemist symbols.

Nicolas worked at different places, including under the arcades that surrounded the Innocents Cemetery (see previous post on the Square des Innocents). Someone copied the decoration under the arcade before its destruction by the end of the 18th century. Here again, it seems that there are some alchemist symbols to be found.

We may never know for certain about his possible alchemist activities, but his name is definitely linked to alchemy. Newton referred to him as well as authors like Victor Hugo, Umberto Eco, Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), J.K.Rowling (Harry Potter)… and so does one of the Indiana Jones films. 


Villa Santos-Dumont

As some kind of prolongation of Rue Santos-Dumont, the photo on the left, – where Georges Brassens spent his last years (see previous posts), there is a little alley, called Villa Santos-Dumont. The about 25 buildings date from the 1920’s and numerous artists have lived here, like for example Ossip Zadkine and Fernand Léger (before moving elsewhere). I met a nice old lady who had been living here since the 1930’s, then newly married. 

(Yes, I took these photos a couple of weeks ago – the flowers may now have partly faded.) 


The Montmartre Museum - again

Some three years ago I posted about the danger of the closure of the Montmartre Museum. It was saved. In July last year I posted about the museum again, including about the plans for important improvements. In that post I also talked about all the well-known artists who have lived and worked here – Renoir, Valadon, Utrillo, Bernard, Dufy…

I passed by the other day and had a check on what has been done so far. Parts of the garden are in a very good shape...  

... and some nice and safe stairs to the lower parts of the garden (little park) now gives a good access to the museum on the other side of the main building …

... and further down also a chance to get a better, different, view of the vineyard, the “Clos de Montmartre” (see previous post).

Other parts of the garden and some adjacent buildings are still under renovation – ongoing until 2014.

Although I have already talked about it in my previous posts, I cannot omit to show you some paintings from the garden by Renoir, by Valadon, by Dufy…  It was when he worked here that Renoir finished one of his most famous paintings, of the nearby “Moulin de la Galette”. … and in the garden you can now find an installation reminding of his painting “The Swing”.

A personality who had a lot of influence on some of the painters was Jules Tanguy, “Père Tanguy”. He worked here for some five years as a “housekeeper” and later opened a little shop (now an art gallery) where he sold painting equipment – often against a painting, which he then exposed. Among his friends and customers you can name Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh… and Emile Bernard, one of the occupants of the present museum. The two latter, van Gogh and Bernard, portrayed “Père Tanguy”, van Gogh several times. Emile Bernard was a very close friend to especially Gauguin and van Gogh. There is even a photo of Bernard and van Gogh together on the Seine bank (van Gogh turns his back). “Père Tanguy” and Bernard were some of the few personalities who were present during van Gogh’s funeral in 1890. Bernard even made a painting of the event.  I think it’s worth mentioning that “Père Tanguy” was a great fan of and sold Japanese prints, that van Gogh also became a fan and that this type of art to a high extent influenced van Gogh’s and some other post-impressionists' way of painting. You can see some Japanese prints behind “Père Tanguy” on van Gogh’s portraits of him. We must certainly be very grateful to "Père Tanguy"! 


Just a little street, but...

This little street, rue Eugène Flachat, in the outskirts of the 17th arrondissement, has a row of amazing “hotel particuliers” (private mansions, townhouses), built between 1880 and 1895. Built as private homes, most of them are now of course transformed into offices. The buildings occupy numbers 8 to 34.

One can notice that the architiect of no. 14 is the same who created the “Petit Palais” (see previous posts) and coordinated the construction of the “Grand Palais” (see previous posts), Charles Girault…

…  and that the architect of no. 32, Paul Sedille, also created the department store “Printemps” (see previous post), as often in close cooperation with the ceramics creator J-P Loebitz.

The “backside” of the same building can be seen on Boulevard Berthier.

Here are some other details from the different facades.


A place full of history

I already posted about these « hidden » alleys and courtyards some four or five years ago. I then wondered what would happen to them. I passed by again a couple of days ago. They are being restored … and the possible fear that they would be demolished or being transformed to something fashionable only for “the wealthy” seems to be wrong. After a long battle by the people living and working there, the City has bought the premises and the occupants, mostly artists and artisans, seem in majority to be able to stay there after the restoration. Actually, many of them are still around during the ongoing important works.

You can find these courtyards and alleys – also known as the “Cours de l’Industrie”, along Rue de Montreuil, somewhere between Place de la Nation (see previous post) and the Bastille (see previous posts here and here).They date from the 19th century, when they were especially occupied by furniture artisans.

(If you wonder about the Chinese text: A friend told me that it reads "yong chun quan", translated to "boxe qui chante le printemps", a specific Chinese art of boxing.) 

The buildings and alleys occupy part of which during the 17th century was the place of a very fashionable “country house” and park, known as the “Folie Titon”, now completely disappeared.  Below, we can compare what the area looked like in 1760 and today.

In 1765 a wallpaper manufacturer, Reveillon, took over the place. He had of course good contact with paper manufacturers, including the family Montgolfier. This led in different steps to the fact that it was somewhere here that Etienne Montgolfier would be the first human to lift off the earth, in October 1783, in a tethered flight, in what was to become known as a “montgolfière”; for the balloon, paper was largely used. A couple of weeks later – in November – the first free flight took place over Paris (see previous posts here and here).

On one of the neighbour buildings you can find some commemorative plates and in another building entrance a mosaic, resuming the history of the place …. which actually also includes another event: “The Reveillon Riot”. The workers at the Reveillon wallpaper factory, upset about a rumour of lowered salaries, put the factory on fire, and a riot led to some 25 people killed. This happened a few weeks before the July 14th 1789 and was one of the first instances of the Revolution. The mosaic is too large for a single photo, so here is a patchwork. (We can recognize Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.).