A little pause...

I will not be posting for a little while. Will spend some time in Stockholm. But... I hope to be back rather soon! 


A new museum

The lion we can see in the middle of the Place Denfert-Rochereau is referred to as the “Lion de Belfort”. There is an original version, in stone, to be found in the city of Belfort in the east of France. It was created by Bartholdi, even more famous of course as the creator of the Statue of Liberty (see here and here). The lion was meant to be a symbol of resistance - the city of Belfort avoided, thanks to a long resistance, being taken by the Prussians in 1870-71. The resistance was headed by Colonel Denfert-Rochereau who thus gave his name to this place, where we find two lodges of the toll barrier called the “Wall of the Farmers General”, on which I have posted e.g. here, here, here and here and which were in operation until 1860.

Today one of the lodges houses the entrance to the Catacombs (see post here). The other one has now just opened as the “Liberation of Paris Museum” It also has the subtitles “General Leclerc Museum” and “Jean Moulin Museum”, referring to two heroes of the French Resistance and the Liberation from the Nazi occupancy. This museum existed on a smaller scale before, but opened here August 27 this year on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris.

The choice of the place is quite obvious as we are on top of what, deep underground, (on the same level as the catacombs) was the Paris headquarters of the “FFI” – “French Forces of the Interior” -  led by Henri Rol-Tanguy (1908-2002), who has given his name to a small part of the avenue which arrives between the two toll lodges. The avenue is the one on which the liberation troops led by General Leclerc (Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque, 1902-1947) arrived in Paris. Due to the recent celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation, there are still some French flags lining the avenue, Avenue du Général Leclerc.

We must remember that the catacombs and the "FFI" premises that we find underground are only a very small part of an enormous tunnel network, originally stone quarries. To visit, you have to go deep down - there are some very impressive stairs.

Well, I’m not going to tell here all the details about the museum, the collaboration, the resistance, the liberation… I guess that some illustrations of what can be found in the museum tell enough. 

We can see a number of things having belonged to General Leclerec…

… and to Jean Moulin. We should remember that he was not only a high-ranked civil servant before the War, he was also a good artist (cartoonist) and during the War he also opened an art gallery (in Nice) for a while as a “cover”.


What's new on the Champs?

Dior is obviously working on some remodeling of its flagship on Avenue Montaigne (see previous posts here). They have since about a month ago opened a new big shop on the Champs-Elysées. An artificial facade, trompe l’oeil, supposed to imitate the facade on Avenue Montaigne, has been added. It’s somehow “folding”. (If you wonder... the “real” façade behind this “folding” one is still there – and is actually quite “ordinary”.)

I made a quick visit, have seldom been so welcomed (“bonjour monsieur” tens of times), but didn’t buy anything.    

I then walked down the Champs-Elysées, noticed that there are not any broken windows anymore, that “Fouquet’s” is again open, that there are the usual long waiting lines to get into the Louis Vuitton building…

 that the new “Apple” and “Galeries Lafayette” installations are there (see previous posts here and here)…

… that the beautilful “Guerlain” shop is there… but what will happen to the former Citroën building, abandoned for more than a year? (See previous posts here and here.)…

… that one of what I referred to as “rotating showers” (see previous post) is already out of water, that the “pergola”, abandoned for years, has disappeared (What happened to it? just scrap? to be mounted elsewhere…?) and that the pavements still need to be repaired (see previous post).

It’s still probably the "world’s most beautiful avenue", but…


The Orsay Museum … again

I have of course already posted about the Orsay Museum (see here and here), but I recently went back for the temporary exhibition of one of my favourite artists, Berthe Morisot. 

The Orsay Museum had established a rule about “no photos”, but now photos are again allowed (except of some privately owned and temporarily exhibited items). I could thus have taken tens, hundreds of photos, but… I took only a few… including the top one of one of the clocks, seen from the inside.

Here are two paintings by Berthe Morisot (1841-1895). The “Lady in Black” (a lady prepared to go to the theatre) is from 1875, the second one is called “Daydreaming” and is from 1894. We can see her daughter Julie Manet (1878-1966). We know that Berthe was married to Eugène Manet, Edouard Manet’s younger brother. Julie was their only child.

I made of course a little walk around the museum and could thus have taken an unlimited number of photos, but here are just a few of the more famous pre-impressionist, impressionist and post-impressionist ones – Manet, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh… and of what may be considered to have been the “model” for the “Statue of Liberty” (on which I posted a number of times, e.g. here and here).

I also again admired this painting by Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1894). She died at the age of 36 and this painting called “La Réunion” (the meeting) is from 1884 - look at the details. I wrote about her in a previous post, about the Passy Cemetery, where she is buried, as are most of the members of the Manet family (the Manet brothers, Berthe Morisot, her daughter Julie…).


650 years old (about)

I have made several posts about the Philippe-Auguste wall, built during the years 1190-1215, and also about the several places where you can still find some remains (see here). The Philippe-Auguste wall was later followed by a Charles V-wall, built during the years 1356-1383 … and of course by other later walls.

The Charles V-wall was actually only constructed on the Right Bank, the Left Bank was still left with the Philippe-Auguste wall. On the Right Bank, the two walls were linked by additional walls, more or less following the Seine banks.

As I indicated above, the Philippe-Auguste wall is still visible at many places in Paris, whereas until recently I only knew about a visibility of the Charles V-wall in the Carrousel du Louvre (see a previous post). But now there is another part visible. Recent modifications of a little square in the 4th arrondissement (Place du Père-Teilhard-de-Chardin) made the wall visible, and before covering the place, an opening was made enabling a public view of a little piece of the wall.

Maybe the rough indications of the two walls I made on the Google map would make it easier to understand what I tried to explain above.

The square (see previous post) has now lost the statue of Arthur Rimbaud, but I found it on the Seine banks during a recent walk (see here) - instead a walkway is now indicating where the wall is buried.

A late 16th century engraving shows quite well what Paris once looked like with the two walls. We can also (again) see the three uninhabited islands, Île Notre-Dame, Île aux Vaches and Île Louviers.

The two first ones were brought together in the beginning of the 17th century together and became Île Saint-Louis. It was as late as in the 1840’s that the space which separated the little island, Île Louviers, from the mainland was filled. So, we can remember that walking on the little square today, we would some 180 years back have been on the Seine banks.

The City has, kindly, made viewable a little part of the wall and visitors can by some photos, illustrations and text learn what I have tried to explain above.   



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.     


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.