Last Sunday I met a friend at the Petit Palais to see the almost over exhibition called “Paris Romantique 1815 – 1848”.
I don’t know if I believe in reincarnation or if I even like this potentially frightening idea, yet, have you ever felt so irrationally drawn to a person, a place, a language, a culture (if you’re reading this my sense is that oui!), a civilization, an author, or even… a century? Pour moi, c’est le 19ème siècle.
Most of my favorite art, music, literature, architecture, were created in 19th century France, actually, let me go slightly over this period and go all the way to the end of la Belle Époque en 1914. Disons un 19ème siècle qui dépasse un peu! Not to mention the drastic and fascinating political, economical, social, societal changes which took place in 19th century France.
A few examples…
– Seven political regimes: 1ère république, 1er empire, restauration de la monarchie absolue, monarchie constitutionnelle, 2ème république, 2nd empire, 3ème république! So hectic it blows my mind! Best history classes ever.
– Explosion of capitalism along with the 2nd industrial revolution, giving birth to inventions which changed everything. Imagine this: wealthy people used to pay artists to paint their family, their home, as realistically as possible of course until… the camera was invented! Now “la peinture” no longer needs to reproduce reality exactly and is finally free to be truly creative, explore brand new horizons… “l’impressionnisme” was born! Ever thought about that?
Jean-Léon Gérôme with his painting “Réception du Grand Condé à Versailles” depicts this scene in Versailles as realistically as possible. It is so precise it could almost pass for a photo, don’t you think?
Camille Pissarro is clearly exploring new creative possibilities with the gorgeous “Boulevard Montmartre, effet de nuit”
I love both paintings and styles, and you don’t have to choose either!
– Decline of the aristocracy vs the rise of the bourgeoisie (the best description of this fascinating phenomenon is clearly “À la recherche du temps perdu” by my beloved Marcel Proust) which of course politically corresponds to the constitutional monarchy controlled by the bourgeoisie kicking out the previous aristocratic regimes in place since pretty much the fall of the Roman Empire. Can you imagine???
Back to the Petit Palais
But I am, as always, digressing, parce que j’adore ça! Donc maintenant, retournons au Petit Palais!
Dimanche dernier, I left my apartment early, giving myself plenty of time to walk all the way there while creating opportunities to stop, look, compare, memorize, turn left or right here and there, read, explore, take pictures, and still arrive two minutes early!
It was my first time at the Petit Palais, this absolutely stunning musée des beaux arts built in 1900 by French architect Charles Girault. Regardez cette entrée sublime, sublimissime même!
Even though I was dying to see the whole museum, we decided to focus on the reason for our visit: “Paris Romantique 1815 – 1848”, which took us 4 hours and somehow still felt rushed. J’aime prendre mon temps et tout lire dans les musées! Une petite question pour vous: Are you wondering why the museum picked those specific dates? That’s because they correspond to pivotal moments of French history, which I briefly mentioned above… alors, alors, à quoi correspondent ces dates??
1815: The 2nd and last fall of Napoléon Ier. In other words, l’empire remplacé par la monarchie (Louis XVIII, brother of slightly less lucky previously decapitated Louis XVI. Yikes.) getting back on the throne, that’s why we call this period “la restauration”.
1848: Vive la révolution! Everyone just pictures 1789 when they think of la révolution française, but the truth is we are a rebellious people and therefore count many revolutions. Don’t forget that the 19th century also corresponds to the development of Socialism all over Europe. However, this was yet another revolution won by the Bourgeoisie, leading to the 2nd republic menée par un certain Louis Napoléon Bonaparte… sounds familiar? Et oui, Louis Napoléon Bonaparte était le neveu de Napoléon Ier, and soon decided being président de la république wasn’t quite cool enough, so, after a shameless coup d’état in December 1851, he became l’empereur Napoléon III. Et voilà!
I’m going to share with you some of the elements I found the most striking. I apologize in advance for the not always so great quality of my photos. My phone was literally in the process of dying (pauvre petit téléphone que j’ai fait tomber par terre quelques heures auparavant… oops!) and I spent my Monday afternoon at the Apple store, failing to fix it and therefore having to buy the latest one, which takes amazing photos!
Les restaurants du XIXe siècle
Check out the size of this menu from le restaurant Les Trois Frères Provençaux! Tellement de plats c’est fou!!!
Et un petit close up sur la partie la plus intéressante… les desserts!
La mode du XIXe siècle
Regardez la finesse de ces chaussures! Nowadays we just take for granted that there is a left shoe and a right shoe, since, well, we have a left foot and a right foot! Logique! Not so logique then! So shoe designers not only added their name / signature inside the shoe, they also indicated “gauche” & “droite” for a better customer experience! I know it’s tiny but can you see it? (as well as my slightly less elegant foot in the middle ha!)
Un éventail tellement délicat, hand painted on see through silk:
Mesdames, which chapeau would you pick for your next date?
Messieurs, don’t worry, we have something for you too! And in fact let me tell you something: to me 19th century “romantique” fashion for men is the sexiest EVER! Oh how I wish men still dressed like this. But they don’t. Sigh.
And since it’s hard to really picture the full style with a few photos, why don’t I share with you one of my favorite movies called “Les enfants du siècle” describing the “romantique” period, lifestyle, and the destructive passionate burning love story between two 19th century French literature super stars: George Sand & Alfred de Musset. Just how ridiculously hot is the actor dressed as Alfred de Musset?!! The hair, the shirts, the colors, the frills, the fabrics, the textures, aaaaaah everything! I can’t take it j’adoooooore!!! Admire the trailer and see for yourself (it’s in French!)
It. Never. Gets. Old. Seriously, watch this movie. You’ll learn so much about French culture & mentality…
Voilà pour vous messieurs! Superbe, n’est-ce pas? The detail of the fabric and the designs… I stared at these for about 20 minutes, precisely picturing Alfred de Musset (one of my beloved fiery authors in case you hadn’t guessed yet) wearing each and everyone of these. Vivid imagination = endless fun!
What a pleasant surprise to find myself in front of George Sand (played by the stunning Juliette Binoche in movie mentioned above) later on near the end of the museum exhibition! She used a man’s name and sometimes dressed as a man so that she could act more freely and see more doors open before her, but she soon became so successful and popular as a writer that everyone knew George was a woman!
Et pour finir en musique, je vous présente le sublime, le grand, le magnifique, le ténébreux Franz Liszt, also hanging out in the Petit Palais near his friend George!
Now that you have a better feel for French 19th century vibe, why not listen to some of Franz’s music, interpreted by the sublime Khatia Buniatishvili. Enjoy!
Ok ok, one more before we’re done for this week!
That’s it for this week but more to come in the next blog posts! I love this new Paris theme, what do you think?
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