Archive

19th century

01
London has always been a heavy smoker. Complaints about air pollution in the city were raised at an early stage of urban development. In 1644 an anonymous pamphlet entitled Artificiall fire, or Coale for rich and poore (held at the British Library) seems to predate a longing for suburban greenery: ‘as some fine Nosed City Dames used to tell their Husbands: Husband! we shall never bee well, wee nor our Children, whilst wee live in the smell of this Cities Seacole smoke; Pray, a Countrey house for our health, that we may get out of this stinking Seacole Smell’.
02

Like most old cities, London has experienced numerous serious fires in the course of its history. At times it was feared that the capital would literally go up in flames. Industrial use of burning coal deeply altered social and environmental history. The Industrial Revolution produced an endless suply of goods for consumption, but in the process natural resources were ruthlessly exploited. Waste and fumes polluted street, soil, and sky. Factories and chimneys blocked out most natural light in the towns. Steam was used to power the factory machines and the burning coal produced an ‘ink-sea of vapour, black, thick, and multifarious as Spartan broth’ (Thomas Carlyle). The streets of industrial cities were covered with thick greasy dirt. A dramatic rise in urban population exacerbated the effects of pollution. City life often was unbearable. Pollution remained (and remains) London’s main enemy. The Great Smog of 1952, a mixture of weather conditions and coal fires, created panic. Understanding the health impacts of London’s air pollution became an issue and for many city dwellers a priority.
03
Visitors to taverns, clubs and other social gatherings in the capital experienced the smell of another fume in their nostrils. Tobacco was introduced in England in 1586 and placed under a duty in Elizabeth’s reign. It is said to have first been smoked at the Pied Bull tavern at Islington. Addiction to tobacco was reported from the early days of the habit of smoking (then termed ‘drinking’ tobacco, the smoke being inhaled and allowed to escape through the nose). Objections were raised from the outset.
04

In 1604 James I published his ‘A Counterblaste to Tobacco’ in which he condemned smoking as ‘a branch of the sin of drunkenness, which is the root of all sins’. By 1614, the number of tobacconists in London was estimated at over 7,000. The weed was also sold by apothecaries and prescribed as a drug. Its medical use has long been advocated. Physician Tobias Venner spent time between his practice in North Petherton (Somerset) in the winter, and in Bath between spring and autumn.
05
The annual influx of the sick provided a lucrative trade for visiting physicians in the city. The hot mineral springs in Bath enjoyed a reputation for the cure of skin problems, paralytic disorders, and other painful conditions. In 1620 he published The Bathes of Bathe, the first to book dedicated exclusively to the city’s spa. He successfully cultivated his image as a genuine balneologist in a world of quacks and charlatans. Venner also published A Briefe Treatise Concerning the Taking of the Fume of Tobacco (1621). Although he disliked the ‘detestable savour’ of tobacco and deplored its recreational use, he recommended smoking as a means of improving digestion and countering the malign effects of cold, misty weather and contagious air. Tobacco came into general medical use during the time and panic of the Great Plague.
06
The production of tobacco was integral to the slave trade. The signs of tobacconists’ shops in the eighteenth century generally consisted of a large wooden figure of a black Indian, wearing a crown of tobacco leaves and a kilt of the same material. He was usually placed at the side of the door, above which hung three rolls, also cut in wood. The decorated cards or shop-bills of tradesmen at this period were often designed by artists of repute. Hogarth in his early days designed one for ‘Richard Lee at ye Golden Tobacco-Roll in Panton Street near Leicester Fields’.
07

From early on, the import and production of tobacco in London has had a strong Jewish input. Portuguese-born merchant Dunstan [Gonsalvo] Anes took refuge in London late in 1540 having fled the inquisition in his home country. His son William carried on the family business as a London merchant. In 1626 he and Philip Burlamachi were the king’s factors for tobacco and licensed to import 50,000 pounds of tobacco free of duty for the king. The Anes family lived and traded in Tudor and Jacobean London for ninety years, publicly conforming to the established church, and privately practising Judaism in their homes.
08

The initial manufacture of tobacco was concentrated in Hackney, East London, which at one time contained seventy-six factories for the production of tobacco, cigars, and snuff. The name of various taverns reminded its customers of the local tobacco industry, such as the Virginia Plant in Great Dover Street, Southwark, and a Virginia Planter in Virginia Road, Bethnal Green. Through the late 1800s the areas of Spitalfields, Whitechapel, and Bethnal Green became central to the tobacco industry. The raw material was imported from America and brought into warehouses at Pennington Street, alongside Tobacco Dock. Cigar makers worked long hours for a low wage – it was ‘slave labour’ on a leaf that had been produced by slavery. On the other side of the social scale, cigar lounges were established in London that were havens of sophistication and indulgence, places where time stood still in the midst of the relentless pace of the metropolis.

09

In 1828, Samuel Reiss opened the Grand Cigar Divan, a coffee house on the Strand where gentlemen smoked in peace, browsed over the daily journals and newspapers, indulged in political conversations, and played chess, sitting on comfortable divans or sofas. It became the acknowledged Home of Chess in Britain. Many of the top players of the nineteenth century played here at some stage: Wilhelm Steinitz, Paul Morphy, Emmanuel Lasker, Johannes Zukertort (who had a fatal stroke whilst playing there), Siegnert Tarrasch, and many others. It also hosted the great tournaments of 1883 and 1899 and the first ever women’s international in 1897.

Before the arrival of Polish and other Eastern European Jews who tended to work in the rag trade, the tobacco industry was the chief employer of immigrants in the East End. The continuous decline of the Dutch economy during the first half of the nineteenth century prompted many Amsterdam Jews to settle in London. Arriving from the 1840s onwards, these immigrants established the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in London at Sandy Row, Spitalfields, in 1854. Amongst their particular skills were shoe, hat and cigar making. Many of them settled in a small system of local streets known as the Tenter ground.
10

Formerly, this had been an enclosed area where Flemish weavers stretched and dried cloth on machines called tenters which were fitted with sharp hooks. The first use of the figurative phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ dates from 1748. By the nineteenth century, the site had been built upon with housing, but remained an enclave where the Dutch Chuts lived as a virtually separate community (the name is thought to be an approximation of the sound of the word ‘good’ in Dutch). During the second half of the century there was in Chicksand Street, off Brick Lane, a family business of cigar makers called Zeegen Brothers. This was one was of a number of similar factories that had mostly come from Amsterdam. Initially, the Zeegen Brothers prospered, expanding their business into addresses at no. 123 Commercial Street and no. 23 Lamb Street. However, the introduction of machinery for the mass-production of tobacco proved fatal and ultimately led to the collapse of the cigar-making economy on which many members of the Chuts community depended. In the London Gazette of 13 October 1896 Alexander, Louis and Israel Zeegen, together with Morris Isaacs, gave notice of the fact that the brothers had dissolved their partnership as cigar manufacturers.
11
Bernhard Barron was born on 5 December 1850 in the Russian town of Brest Litovsk into a poor Jewish family. He was probably of French descent. In 1867 Baron emigrated to New York, where he worked in a tobacco factory. Soon he started to manufacture cigarettes himself. He then moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where he found customers among the students of Yale University, before settling in Baltimore. In 1872 Barron took out his first patent for machine made cigarettes. In 1895 he visited England to sell the patent rights of his invention which could make 450 cigarettes a minute. Attracted by the business opportunities, he decided to settle in London at St James’ Place, Aldgate. There he established the Barron Cigarette Machine Company Limited. In 1903 he joined the board of Carreras Limited, becoming its managing director and chairman. He held both positions until his death in August 1929. Carreras’s cigarettes, notably their Black Cat brand, proved highly popular. The House of Carreras had been founded in the nineteenth century by Don José Carreras Ferrer, a Spanish nobleman who fought in the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington. After serving with distinction, he was forced to leave Spain on account of his political views. During the early years of the nineteenth century he began trading in London. Don José specialised in cigars, but his son José Joaquin expanded the business by concentrating on the blending of tobaccos and snuff. His reputation soon spread and by 1852 he had established himself at no. 61 Prince’s Street (near Leicester Square). The majority of his workforce had Iberian roots.
12
Charles Dickens in Bleak House refers to poor Spanish immigrants clustered around Somers Town and census data reveals the presence of many of tobacco traders and workers in the area. This district, covering the railway termini of Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross, was originally granted by William III to his Lord Chancellor John Somers. In 1784, the first housing was built amid brick works and market gardens. The construction of New Road (now: Euston Road) improved access to the area and in 1793 Frenchman Jacob Leroux leased land from the Somers family for luxury building and development. His scheme failed. War and recession forced down property prices and the neigh¬bourhood lost its appeal. A number of houses were bought by exiles from the French Revolution and thirty years later a similar intake of Spanish political refugees gave Somers Town a strong Catholic tradition which remains to this day. Being the home of a substantial community of exiled liberals, the district developed into a sort of expatriate Spanish barrio.
13
During the First World War smoking increased sharply and Carreras came to the fore in supplying cigarettes to the armed forces. Having outgrown its Arcadia cigarette factory in City Road, Bernard Baron decided that the Carreras Tobacco Company needed more adequate facilities. In 1926, he commissioned the new Arcadia Works to be built on Mornington Crescent’s communal garden – formerly a favourite residence of artists and writers – to a design by Collins (brothers) and Arthur George Porri which was inspired by the vogue for Egyptian-style building and decoration. Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun had made a huge impact on art and architecture. Egypt-o-mania was in full swing. The 1925 Paris Exhibition popularised the fashion even more, but the English passion for Egypt dated back to the mid eighteenth century. Orientalist John Montagu, future Earl of Sandwich and First Lord of the Admiralty, was among the early English travellers who sailed on from Italy to the Ottoman Empire (inspiring others to undertake the ‘Ottoman Grand Tour’). Back in London, under the assumed name of Sheikh Pyramidum, he founded both the Egyptian Society (December 1741), open to ‘any gentleman who has been in Egypt’, and under the different name of El Fakir Sandwich Pasha, the Divan Club open to gentlemen with the intention of going to Turkey.
14
Egypt was also a globally successful manufacturer of cigarettes. Non-Egyptian tobacco companies adopted oriental motifs in their advertising to take advantage of this. English soldiers returning from the Crimean War had brought with them a taste for Turkish cigarettes and soon this more ‘sophisticated’ form of smoking was in vogue throughout the city of London. In 1913, American tobacco manufacturer R.J. Reynolds introduced the packaged smoke with a ‘new’ flavour, creating the Camel brand, so named because it used Turkish paper. All these different developments were brought together in the design of Baron’s factory. The white building’s distinctive Egyptian-style ornamentation originally included a solar disc to the Sun-god Ra, two gigantic effigies of black cats flanking the entrance, and colourful painted details. These versions of the Egyptian god Bastet stood guard over Arcadia Works until 1959 when Carreras merged with Rothmans of Pall Mall and moved to a new factory in Basildon. The Carreras factory was opened in style in 1928. The pavements in front of the building were covert with ‘desert’ sand. There was a procession of cast members from a contemporary production of Verdi’s Aida, a performance of actors in Egyptian costume, and a chariot race was held on Hampstead Road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
When the factory was converted into offices in 1961 the Egyptian ornamentation was lost and its revolutionary concept, both in construction procedures and working conditions, became more evident. It was the first factory in Britain to make use of pre-stressed concrete technology, the first to contain air conditioning, and to install a dust extraction plant. Today the building is appreciated as one of the best Art Deco buildings in the capital and seen as an icon of modernist architecture. In his manifesto Ornament und Verbrechen (translated into English in 1913 as ‘Ornament and Crime’), Viennese architect Adolf Loos had declared that lack of decoration in new building is the sign of an advanced society. Progress in architecture, he argued, is aesthetic simplification (honest, simple, and pure) and the removal of ornament. The principle was brought in practise by Le Corbusier and Bauhaus. In the 1920s and 1930s lack of decorative detail became a hallmark of modern architecture. All this makes the design of the Arcadia Works intriguing. Its ornamentation reflected the early English interest in various manifestations of ancient Egyptian culture. At the same time, it offered a glimpse of future corporate branding in which the characteristic features of a building were to be sacrificed to the gleaming demands of advertisers and product-peddlers.

16

01

During the late nineteenth century journal and newspaper articles that described artists’ homes or studios as demonstrations of their unique creative personalities became fashionable reading. Architectural and interior design were supposed to reflect the individuality of genius. The homes of the painters Frederic Leighton in Holland Park and Lawrence Alma-Tadema in St John’s Wood were described in glowing terms. These grandiose mansions created enormous curiosity. Their owners belonged to the elite of society (Leighton was the first painter to be given a peerage in the New Year Honours List of 1896; Alma-Tadema was knighted in 1899) and through their work they accumulated enormous wealth; they mixed with royalty and aristocracy and enjoyed a lifestyle of comfort, splendour and luxury. So much for our beloved notion of the ‘starving artist’, itself a creation of the nineteenth century.

02

Lawrence [Lorenz] Alma-Tadema was born on 8 January 1836 in Dronrijp, Friesland, in the Netherlands. The son of a notary, he began his formal art training at the Academy of Art in Antwerp. Influenced by his friendship with the Egyptologist Georg Ebers, he first produced paintings on Merovingian and Egyptian subjects. On honeymoon in Italy he visited Pompeii. His visit coincided with the first systematic excavations of the site. Inspired by the spectacle, he embarked on depicting the classical world. The representation of Roman life started to dominate his oeuvre. In 1864 he secured a lucrative commission from Belgian-born art dealer Ernest Gambart for twenty-four pictures; in 1869 he received a second contract for another forty-eight paintings.
03

Gambart exhibited Alma-Tadema’s work at his prestigious French Gallery in London. It was in December 1869 that Lawrence first met Laura Epps at the London home of Ford Madox Brown, some nine months after the death of his French wife Marie-Pauline Gressin de Boisgirard.
04
Laura was half his age. The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War made him decide to move to London. Arriving in the capital at the beginning of September 1870 with his two young daughters, Alma-Tadema rented the house and studio at no. 4 Camden Square which was owned by the orientalist painter Frederick Goodall who was then travelling in Egypt. He contacted Laura and proposed to her.

05

Having married in July 1871, the couple settled at Townsend House, no. 17 Titchfield Terrace, North Gate, Regent’s Park, where Laura acted as stepmother to his daughters. She herself was a painter of sentimental domestic scenes in seventeenth century Dutch settings. A prolific artist who enjoyed enormous success in Britain, Alma-Tadema lived in extravagant style. He redesigned Townsend House to resemble a Roman villa, but in the early hours of 10 October 1874 an unfortunate accident happened. The barge ‘Tilbury’ was third in a train of vessels being towed by a steam tug westwards along the Regent’s Park Canal. It was laden with sugar, nuts, two or three barrels of petroleum, and five tons of gunpowder. The powder caught fire, causing a huge explosion, as the barge went under Macclesfield Bridge at North Gate. It was the greatest explosion in London up to the time of World War I. It could be heard thirty kilometres away and dead fish rained from the sky in the West End. The crew were killed and the bridge destroyed. The explosion also seriously damaged Alma-Tadema’s house. The catastrophe caused such havoc that a detachment of Horse Guards were brought in to help keep order and to ensure safety from wild animals at the nearby Zoological Gardens.

06

The destruction caused by the explosion offered an opportunity to redecorate the villa all over again. Alma-Tadema invited George Aitchinson to join him in the design of the property. At the time this architect was at the height of popularity. Working in a family practice, he had specialised in wharves, warehouses, docks and railway architecture. In 1860 he was commissioned by painter Frederic Leighton to design a home and studio for him in Holland Park. Work on the house started in 1865. Aitchinson’s involvement with Leighton’s mansion extended over thirty years.

07

Externally, the new house showed little ornament or embellishment. The south facade, facing the street, was given the appearance of an Italian palazzo. The north side overlooking the garden was dominated by the large studio window on the first floor. Internally the house was relatively modest at this early stage. Extensions followed later. Construction of the Arab Hall started in 1877 and created a sensation. The model was an interior contained in the twelfth-century Castello della Zisa at Palermo. Some outstanding craftsmen were involved in its construction, including the potter William De Morgan, the sculptor Edgar Boehm, and the artist and book-illustrator Walter Crane amongst others. Crane’s design for the gold mosaic frieze was made up in Venice and shipped to the site in sections. The early tiles used in the building of the Hall, mostly brought over from Damascus (antiquarian interest and art robbery were indistinguishable at the time), form a unique collection in itself. Through his work for Leighton, Aitchinson was engaged by a number of artistically-inclined clients to remodel their London homes. Alma-Tadema was one of them.

Drawing, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tademas Library in Townshend House, London, 1884

In the reconstruction of Townsend House each room was given a distinct theme, downstairs there were a Gothic library, Laura’s Japanese studio, a Spanish boudoir, and upstairs laid out a series of parlours in Moorish, Byzantine, and other styles. Lawrence’s own studio took on a Pompeian look. Anna Alma-Tadema followed in the footsteps of her parents and became an artist producing portraits, interior scenes, and flowers. She made a number of watercolours of the interior Townshend House, including The Drawing Room and The Gold Room. In 1884 she produced a watercolour of her father’s library. The room is furnished with Dutch oak cabinets, a fur-covered couch and a bronze chandelier, designed by Alma-Tadema himself; a Japanese lantern on the ceiling and Japanese matting on the floor; a palm leaf fan, peacock feathers, and batik fabric, all from the Dutch East Indies. The interior pointed to the artist’s native country. To contemporary critics it reflected the inventive genius of its creator. The working relationship between artist and architect in such undertakings underlines how much the balance of power in the arts had shifted. Traditionally, architecture had been considered the ‘mother of the arts’, because it had a maternal role in regard to sculpture, painting, and other decorative arts.
09
Andrea Palladio presented Regina Virtus (Queen of Virtue) on the frontispiece to each of his four studies on the art of building. She sits there as mother of the arts. The moment that this nurturing relationship with the arts was broken, and each of the ‘children’ had gone out in the world to find his/her own way, architecture itself disintegrated. John Ruskin still upheld that position when, in The seven lamps of architecture, he argued that ‘architecture must be the beginning of arts, and that the others must follow her in their time and order […] the prosperity of our schools of painting and sculpture […] depends upon that of our architecture’. In the course of the nineteenth century the architect lost his prominent position. He was obliged to execute the whims and caprices of his employers. It is not surprising that Ruskin was appalled by Alma-Tadema’s work.

10

As soon as the building work at Townsend House was finished, Alma-Tadema went out in search of a bigger property and a new project to mark his position as a trendsetter and arbiter of taste in Victorian society. It turned out to be a villa in St John’s Wood, once owned by a fellow painter of Continental descent. Jacques Joseph [James] Tissot was born on 15 October 1836 in Nantes, the son of a Roman Catholic linen merchant. He arrived in Paris at the time of the 1855 International Exhibition.
11
A number of his early compositions centred on Marguerite, the heroine of Goethe’s Faust as interpreted in opera by Charles Gounod. One of Tissot’s first paintings on the theme, Marguerite in Church, was acquired in 1860 by art dealer Adolphe Goupil, who published a high-quality photograph thereby making the image available to a wide international audience. Tissot had a passion for oriental art. He collected Japanese prints, textiles, and porcelain, incorporating them as accessories in paintings, as well as depicting western-looking women dressed in kimonos. During bombardment in April and May 1871 of the Commune he volunteered as a stretcher-bearer. He sympathised with anti-government feelings and was appalled to see the brutality of the ‘bloody week’ in May when French troops suppressed the revolt, making sketches of what he witnessed.

12

In June 1871 Tissot travelled to England for a private view of the official French contribution to the International Exhibition, not intending to stay long. He brought with him sketches made during the siege. Shocked by his eyewitness accounts his friends urged him to stay in London. After all, his work was admired in the metropolis and sales were phenomenal. Early in 1873 he settled at no. 17 (later: no. 44) Grove End Road, St John’s Wood, a detached residence that was built in 1825 with substantial grounds, a coach house and stables, and a formal pond ringed by an Ionic colonnade.
13
He decorated the interior in a mixture of Empire and Victorian styles with a flavour of the Orient. In 1877, artist’s model Kathleen Newton [née Kelly] came to live with him. Of Irish descent, she was born in India where her marriage was arranged to an army surgeon in the Punjab. She soon left him and returned to England. As divorce was not recognised by the Catholic Church, their social sphere shrank to people to whom cohabitation was irrelevant. Kathleen became the main model in Tissot’s pictures from 1878. Their life of domesticity was short lived as his partner died of tuberculosis in November 1882. He left for Paris immediately after the funeral.

SAG65029 A Convalescent, c.1876 (oil on canvas) by Tissot, James Jacques Joseph (1836-1902); 76.7x99.2 cm; Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, UK; (add.info.: Tissot's garden in St John's Wood;); Photo © Museums Sheffield; French, out of copyright

The house stood empty for some time before it was acquired by Alma-Tadema. The property next door was owned by his good friend, the enormously successful historical genre painter (later keeper of the Royal Academy) Philip Hermogenes Calderon who was of mixed Spanish-French descent. Both became active members of the so-called St John’s Wood Clique. Calderon was a sociable man, and among his large circle of friends were members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, G. F. Watts, who painted his portrait, and many literary figures, notably George Du Maurier, Anthony Trollope, and Charles Dickens.

15
His son Alfred Marigon Calderon was an architect. His first work after articling was the design of the Alma-Tadema residence. The house was extensively remodelled to an Italianate style. In fact, some 80% of Tissot’s dwelling was demolished for reconstruction. It was the owner’s ambition to create a temple of aestheticism. When it was finished critics described it as being more like an enchanted palace than a London house. A shady and tiled pergola led through the old garden from the gate to the front door which was made of carved wood and surrounded by deep bronze relief. The entrance to the hall was designed in a classic style, and the floors were laid with Persian tiles. It was known as the Hall of Panels, an ‘unending’ series (some fifty in total) of narrow vertical panels painted in brilliant colours against the white walls by friends and visiting artists (twenty six of the panels reappeared at a Sotheby’s auction in 1974; and four panels were sold in The Forbes Collection auction at Christie’s in 2003). Around the hall were various rooms, one of which was filled with choice treasures from China and Japan. Another room had leather-covered walls, old cabinets and highly-polished brasses of Dutch design and workmanship. The house had sixty-six rooms in total, including an atrium, a billiard room, and a large cellar just for mineral waters. Central to the structure was a balcony overlooking a marble basin with a babbling fountain. There were studios for Anna, Laura and Lawrence himself. For Laura’s Dutch-style studio a team of craftsmen were brought over from Holland to fabricate the oak-beamed ceiling and oak wall panelling with matching chimneypiece.
16
The same team put together the adjoining bedroom from Dutch woodwork and Delft tileware. Lawrence himself occupied a three-story studio with walls of gray and green marble, magnificent stained-glass windows designed by American artist of French descent John La Farge, and capped with a semi-circular dome covered in aluminium which gave a silvery tone to his paintings. The family finally moved into the house in November 1886. The inscription above the door read ‘Where friends meet hearts warm’ and a stream of famous visitors did pass through the door, from Tchaikovsky, Rodin, Henry James, Sarah Bernardt, Ignacy Paderewski, Enrico Caruso, to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and young Winston Churchill. An Arab Hall in Holland Park or an Italianate villa with a Persian entrance in St John’s Wood – these artist’s mansions emphasise the stylistic confusion of the age. In art and architecture, it was an eclectic free for all, a carnival of styles. Eclecticism is the borrowing and combining of a variety of manners from different sources or periods. It does not constitute a specific style, but it fuses a variety of influences. A pluralistic society is by its very nature eclectic. Ignoring the wealth of our past would lead to collective amnesia.
17
The problem with nineteenth century eclecticism however was identified as early as 1836 by Augustus Welby Pugin in his Contrasts (p.31): ‘Let us look around, and see whether the Architecture of this country is not entirely ruled by whim and caprice. Does locality, destination, or character of a building, form the basis of a design? No; surely not. We have Swiss cottages in a flat country; Italian villas in the coldest situations; a Turkish kremlin for a royal residence; Greek temples in crowded lanes; Egyptian auction rooms; and all kinds of absurdities and incongruities: and not only are separate edifices erected in these inappropriate and unsuitable styles, but we have only to look into those nests of monstrosities, the Regent’s Park and Regent Street, where all kind of styles are jumbled together to make up a mass’.

18

London’s explosive urban and industrial expansion during the nineteenth century required functional planning. In order to build rapidly and extensively an attempt was made to perfect standard types. Mass construction created a sense of urban monotony because the individual building was less significant than the series to which it belonged. Architecture became standardised, regulated and quantified. Purpose and functionality became prime considerations and the question of style was relegated to secondary status. This is the paradox of the age. Never before had the variety of styles been so great and the tendency towards evenness so visible. Novelty itself was confused, a labyrinth of experiments. The Victorian brand of Classicism/Orientalism was essentially escapist, a vogue for the exotic, a craving for colour in an age dressed in black. Architecture deteriorated into a fancy-dress party. In an age of extraordinary scientific and technological progress, art and architecture were mesmerised by Antiquity and the Orient, by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It caused a dilemma of identity. Alma-Tadema’s painting is an expression of that muddle.

19

Britain’s overseas expansion moreover stimulated grand comparisons. Roman dignity was claimed for British monarchs. In 1876 Disraeli introduced the Royal Titles Act which raised the status of the English queen to ‘Regina et Imperatrix’. British imperialists were keen to draw the historical parallel with Imperial Rome to justify their expansionist actions. Rome was seen as the most instructive of all histories to contemporary British ambitions. It was an appealing analogy: Rome had been a civilizing force in barbaric times and Britain’s mission was to play a similar role in the modern world. But it was also an ample warning: the decadence and degeneration of the eternal city should function as a continuous reminder to rulers and administrators. Alma-Tadema affirmed such historical comparisons in paint. In his depictions ancient Rome and modern London are on a par. His Roman citizen in front of the temple did not seem to differ from a business man on his way to the Stock Exchange with its imitation temple front. He was a Victorian city-dweller in toga. Modernism redirected art towards the present once again and re-formulated the axiom that architecture is fundamentally current speech, not a dictionary of classical quotation.

20

01

The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on rationality and inquiry, and its belief in human ‘perfectibility’, disturbed the religious and cultural underpinning of the European socio-political order. Voltaire and Diderot in France, like David Hume and Jeremy Bentham in Britain, explored the human and secural bases of governmental power. These thinkers prepared the ground for the emergence of democracy as a viable system of government. Others rejected universal suffrage as a first step towards fragmentation. Awareness of disintegration in the workplace was raised when Adam Smith introduced the term and concept of division of labour in The Wealth of Nations (1776).

02
Adam Ferguson warned of the dangers implicit in the system. While Smith feared the effect of specialization on the individual, Ferguson argued that excessive division of labour would strain the social ties that bind society together. Progress would deteriorate into a process of atomization. Specialization also affected science and the arts. Already in his day, Goethe complained that the sciences were pigeon-holed. Universities created a multitude of disciplines without offering an integrated world-view. Too many specialisms caused the part to obscure the whole, and information to replace wisdom. Once divorced from architecture, the arts that were traditionally tied to building (sculpture, painting, and even music) developed into independent branches of creative endeavour. This particularization divorced them from their social purpose. The demand of originality dealt a final blow to stylistic unity or continuity within the creative domain that splintered into a plenitude of aggresively combative groups or -isms succeeding each other at an ever accelerating rate. Time and again critics applied phrases such as ‘cultural anarchy’ or ‘decadence’ to describe the perceived state of fragmentation into which the creative domain had fallen. Subjectivity was seen as the hallmark of disintegration.

03

These observations were made at the same time that an unstoppable process of centralization took place in Europe. All roads and railways led from the provinces to the capital. Napoleon was a key figure in pushing the development towards a single authority of law- and policymaking forward. The French Revolution had swept away most remaining medieval and feudal laws. A truly national law code was established. Paris is the cause of the destruction of all the old bounds of provinces and jurisdictions, ecclesiastical and secular, Edmund Burke observed in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). The ‘strength of Paris thus formed, will appear a system of general weakness’. Critics such as Mme de Staël or Alphonse de Lamartine claimed that centralization would be disastrous from a cultural perpective. They hailed the vibrancy of Italian or German cities competing to emulate and outdo each other in artistic achievements, or, as Hippolyte Taine put it in 1866, in Renaissance Italy, ‘[une] cité était une élite, et non, comme chez nous, une multitude’. It was widely feared that individual regions would forfeit their cultural traditions and the consequent loss of regional identities would undermine the nation’s strength as a whole.

04That is why George Eliot insisted in Middlemarch (1871/2) that an intelligent provincial man with a grain of public spirit, should do what he can ‘to resist the rush of everything that is a little better than common towards London. Any valid professional aims may often find a freer, if not a richer field, in the provinces’. Cities may be centres of innovation and knowledge transfer, but over-centralization or the coming together of all cultural facilities in one place, carries the dangers of homogenizing art (and language) and killing off diversity. Many of our standard handbooks of literature and art seem to suggest that outside the metropolis cultural life is stagnant or non-existent. The attitude is summarized by the figure of Sir Ernold in François de Neufchâteau’s comedy Pamela, ou La vertue recompense (1795): ‘Hors de Paris, vraiment, le goût n’existe pas’. That, of course, is an outrageous statement.

05

Like it was the case for a number of other European cities, Rouen’s modern history has been a painful one. During the nineteenth century its main industry was textile and cotton. Manufacturies were established in the Cailly and Robec valleys as well as on the left bank of the Seine. Endless rows of brick houses were built to lodge the influx of migrant workers. The poor living conditions of the working classes caused social unrest. In April 1848 the city was full of barricades although the insurrection was quickly and brutally put down. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Rouen was occupied by the Prussians. During the First World War the city was a support base for the front line and saw the arrival of many refugees from Northern France and Belgium, before the landing and stationing of British troops. World War ii brought serious suffering to the city. The Germans entered Rouen on the 9 June 1940. The area of the city most affected by combat was located between the cathedral and the river which burned for a week as the Germans refused to allow the fire service access. Rouen was to remain under Nazi control for four long years during which time the city was bombed regularly and recklessly. The worst Allied attack took place during the week from 30 May to 5 June 1944 when 400 bombs hit Rouen killing 1,500 people, damaging the Cathedral, Saint-Maclou and the Palais de Justice and completely destroying a large part of the left bank.

06When the Canadians liberated Rouen on the 30 August 1944 they entered a devastated city. Cityscapes and photographs now serve as a memory of old Rouen. One of the streets obliterated by bombing during the war was Rue de l’Épicerie, literally: street of grocery stores, a bustling market street near to the cathedral. French artist Marcel Augis (pseudonym of Henri Dupont) was one a number of First World War French and Belgian artists that trod the Western Front during the Great War. They recorded the devastation of the battlefields and the areas that contained Allied troops. Many of these etchings/aquatints would have been sold to soldiers returning home after the War or subsequently purchased on battlefield remembrance tours that took place in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1916/7 Augis produced five or six scenes of Rouen. The etching of ‘La Rue de l’Épicerie, Rouen’ dates from 1917 shows a street full of grocery speciality shops of spices from the Far East with the cathedral is in the background.

07

The city is associated with three major artistic movements, namely Realism in literature and Romanticism and Impressionism in painting. From a literary point of view, Rouen is first and foremost associated with novelist Gustave Flaubert. The author was born in the city on 12 December 1821 and educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille (the dramatist was also born in Rouen). In 1840 he went to Paris to study law, but hated the legal profession and found the city distasteful. From 1846 to 1854, Flaubert had a relationship with the poet Louise Colet. After leaving Paris, he returned to Croisset, near the Seine and close to Rouen, and lived with his mother in their home for the rest of his life. He never married. The affair with Louise was his only serious relationship.

08His 1856 novel Madame Bovary is set in the sleepy town of Tostes (now Tôtes), near Rouen, and focuses on a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the emptiness of provincial life. Trapped in a banal marriage to Charles Bovary, a man without drive or ambition, and living in provincial surroundings, infidelity and Rouen are her only means of escape. To her, Paris represents the culmination of all dreams. Her reality however is life in a dull town, an existence of bitterness and discontent. The town of Tôtes also figures in another classic of French literature, Guy de Maupassant’s Boule de Suif. Set during the Franco-Prussian War, the story tells the cowardly betrayal of prostitute Elisabeth Rousset by a group of upright citizens from Rouen in order to save their own skins. De Maupassant himself was educated at a boarding school in the city. 09 Nestling in a meander of the river, the capital of Normandy has always held a fascination for artists. A number of English painters found inspiration in the old town. Richard Parkes Bonington, an Anglo-French painter of coastal scenes with a fine handling of light and atmosphere, painted the famous Rue du Gros-Horloge. Critics consider this work a masterpiece of Romantic lithography.

Turner created a well-known watercolour of Rouen Cathedral and, like Pissarro would do many years later, he compared the city to Venice. Paul Huet painted his splendid ‘Vue générale de Rouen, prise du Mont-aux-Malades’ in 1831. During three trips to Normandy in 1829, 1830 and 1833, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot produced various views of and landscapes around the Seine as seen from Rouen. Théodore Géricault was born and educated in Rouen before settling in Paris. From a historical perspective, a dramatic moment in the turn from Neoclassicism to Romanticism was the exhibition of one of Géricault’s paintings at the Salon of 1819 in Paris. In June 1816, the French frigate ‘Méduse’ had departed from Rochefort bound for Senegal. The ship drifted off course and ran aground on a sandbank off the West African coast. Passengers and crew tried to travel the sixty miles to the African coast in the frigate’s six boats. Although she was carrying 400 people, there was space for just about 250 of them in the boats. The others were piled onto a hastily-built raft. For sustenance the crew had no more than a bag of ship’s biscuits and two casks of water. The journey carried the survivors to the edge of human experience. Crazed and starved, they slaughtered mutineers, ate their dead companions, and killed the weakest amongst them. After thirteen days at sea, the raft was rescued. Fifteen men were still alive. The others had been thrown overboard, died of starvation, or drowned themselves in despair.

11

The disaster inspired Théodore Géricault to create ‘Le radeau de la Méduse’. The painting depicts the moment that survivors view a ship approaching from a distance. The artist was obsessed by the subject-matter. He undertook extensive research, interviewed survivors, and constructed a scale model of the raft. His efforts took him to morgues and hospitals where he could view the dying and dead. He was said to be spellbound with the stiffness of corpses. He brought severed limbs back to his studio to investigate their decay, and stored a severed head borrowed from a lunatic asylum on his studio roof. Despite their drudging reputation, fixed routines are an indispensable tool to artists of all kinds. The creative process demands discipline. Géricault drove this awareness to the extreme. During the eight months of creation, the painter lived a monastic existence, working in methodical fashion and complete silence. The painting established the artist’s international reputation and the disturbing image became an icon of French Romanticism.

12

Johan Barthold Jongkind visited Paris in 1860 where his Dutch watercolours of land- and seascapes enjoyed enormous successs. He decided to stay and paintings such as a ‘Vue de Rouen’ or ‘La Seine près de Rouen’ (both paintings date from 1865) which record the mood and atmospherics of the moment became influential in the push towards new aesthetic ideals. The Impressionists were regular visitors to Rouen. In fact, it was in Normandy that Claude Monet in 1872 painted his famous ‘Impression, soleil levant’, a painting that gave the movement its name. It would, however, be another twenty years before the artist turned his attention to Rouen’s Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Painted from the first floor of a ladies’ lingerie shop, he worked on up to fourteen canvases at a time, determined to capture each and every atmospheric detail. The final result consists of twenty-eight views of the impressive facade which includes ‘La Rue de l’Épicerie à Rouen’ (1892).

13Monet finished the works in his studio at Giverny, carefully adjusting the pictures both independently and in relation to each other. In 1895, he successfully exhibited twenty of his cathedral pictures at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris. In the autumn of 1883, Paul Gauguin moved his family from Paris to Rouen. In desperate financial trouble, he combined painting with selling life insurances and other part-time jobs in order to survive before moving to Copenhagen where his Danish wife Mette tried to keep the family afloat by teaching French to Danish students. During his short spell in Rouen, Gauguin painted a number of street- and city-scenes which includes ‘Rue Jouvenet à Rouen’ (Rouen-born Jean Jouvenet was appointed to the post of Director of the Royal Acadamy in 1705).

14Léon-Jules Lemaître produced some stunning paintings of the area. In his oil painting ‘Palais de Justice de Rouen’ Lemaître masterly captures the atmosphere of the Law Courts’ Renaissance courtyard. His 1890 painting of the Rouen’s Gros Horloge, one of Europe’s oldest working medieval clocks, is an outstanding example of his interest in the cityscape. Lemaître is one of a handful of a group of artists that became known as the ‘École de Rouen’. The term was coined in 1902 by the French critic Arsène Alexandre and refers to a group of post-Impressionist artists who followed in the footsteps of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley. The members of the School of Rouen were drawn to the city as an escape from the strict academic attitudes found in the salons and galleries of Paris at the time. Their efforts culminated in two legendary exhibitions: the first, held in 1907, brought together works by Fauvist artists such as Dufy, Matisse and Braque; the second, organised on the Ile Lacroix in 1912, was addressed by Apollinaire who gave a lecture on ‘Orphic Cubism’.

15

Pissarro was famous for his portrayal of Rouen, a city he once described ‘as beautiful as Venice’. He first worked there in 1883. An admirer of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series, he painted several views of the quays along the Seine. He tended to work at the spot to capture the atmosphere and activity there and then. In 1893, following treatment on an eye, his doctor warned him not to expose himself to dusty conditions. He returned to Rouen in 1896 and in 1898 for three extended painting campaigns. By working from an elevated position, Pissarro found a perfect solution to the problem of capturing the hustle and bustle of the city, its linear and aerial perspectives, without the impracticalities of installing himself in the street. From the third floor of his room at the Hôtel de Paris which overlooked the Seine, he painted different views of the Pont Boïeldieu, at sunset, on an overcast day, in the fog. The bridge joined the old Gothic city in the north with the new southern industrial areas of Sainte-Sever. On the far bank we see boats docking and unloading cargo, with the urban landscape in the distance. It is this juxtaposition of mist and smoke, of the industrial and the historical, that gives his cityscapes its intriguing character. An exhibition of his work at Paul Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in April/May 1896 included eleven Rouen paintings which were critically appreciated and found buyers giving him financial security at last. It allowed him to return to Rouen in September 1896. This time he stayed at the Hôtel d’Angleterre on the other side of the bridge, where his fifth-floor room offered panoramas of the city’s three bridges. In 1898 he travelled to Rouen for a fourth time, painting more views of the bridges, as well as of the Gare d’Orléans and the Quai de la Bourse.

16On 19 August 1898, Pissarro wrote to his son Lucien that he had found an excellent place from which to paint the Rue de l’Épicerie and the Friday market in the Place de la Haute-Vieille-Tour. He made various paintings of the street under different atmospheric conditions, be it in bright sunshine or on a grey morning. Like fellow Impressionists he liked to experiment with the effects of light. Depicting light and the play of shadow has always been a challenge to painters. The Impressionists abolished the traditional use of neutral tones and black and grays for creating shadow by applying purples and yellows instead to suggest coloured shadows and reflected light. Pissarro’s paintings of the old street are a reminder of the cruel damage World War ii had inflicted on Europe’s heritage. His views of Rouen total a number of forty-seven. They vastly exceed the numbers of any other series he created. Cityscapes dominate his oeuvre. Rouen’s rich artistic history in the meantime shows that there is life outside the capital after all.

17

Image

Bishopsgate was anciently divided into Bishopsgate Street Within (i.e. within the walls of London) and Bishopsgate Street Without, and derives its name from an ancient gate in the city walls which is attributed to Erkenwald, elected Bishop of London in 675. Throughout its history this street in Camden has been one of the City’s main commercial centres. A specific nineteenth century addition to the history of city- and streetscapes is the dimension of industrial and commercial activity. This, the age in which religion was replaced by economics, opened up an urban imagery of ports, docks, industrial sites, smoke stacks, factories and shop fronts in painting, poetry and fiction.

Image

Walter Riddle may not be a household name in the annals of English painting, but the Guildhall Art Gallery holds a few interesting canvases by him. One of these paintings, created in 1872, is entitled ‘Bishopsgate in 1871’. The image shows a busy commercial street with in the centre the warehouse of Moore & Moore, pianoforte manufacturers. The firm started production in London in 1837 and was taken over by the Kemble group in 1933. Whatever the quality of their pianos may have been, the firm was part of a lively history of making musical instruments in the capital.

Image

Having arrived from Switzerland in 1718 as a simple journeyman joiner, Burkat Shudi set up his own workshop as a harpsichord maker in 1728. It was the foundation of the famous business now known as John Broadwood & Sons. Some time in the 1720s Burkat Shudi became apprenticed to Hermann Tabel, a Fleming who had learned the art of harpsichord making in the famous Antwerp house of the Ruckers dynasty of instrument makers. He was the first person who built harpsichords in London where he resided between 1680 and 1720. Little is known about Tabel, but a harpsichord made by him is in the possession of Helena, Countess of Radnor, and bears the inscription ‘Hermannus Tabel fecit Londini, 1721’. Another London pupil of Tabel was the German immigrant Jacob Kirkman, who set up a rival workshop producing harpsichords of equal quality to those of Shudi. Later, both Broadwood and Kirkman became leading manufacturers of pianos (between 1771 and 1851 no fewer than 103,750 pianos were produced by Broadwood, one of the main London employers at the time).

Image
The piano was first demonstrated in London by the multi-talented Charles Dibdin (composer, singer, actor, novelist), who is most famous for his sea songs. Between the acts of a performance of The Beggar’s Opera at Covent Garden, on 16 May 1767, he accompanied Miss Bricklet on the ‘new pianoforte’. Dibden lived in Arlington Road, Camden Town, and it was there that the piano industry blossomed. Camden was a suitable centre for its manufacture. Transport conditions by water and rail were ideal. By the middle of the century, London had over two hundred piano making firms, three quarters of them north of the river. Some firms made instruments on a mass production system, as Collard & Collard (originally established as Longman & Broderip in 1767) did in their famous circular factory in Oval Road. Others were merely small assembly shops. Besides manufacturers there were part makers, such as piano key makers; wrench pin makers; hammer coverers; truss carvers; gilders; marquetry workers; veneer, timber and ivory suppliers; makers of piano castors; piano stool makers, piano-back makers; piano tuners and others. All these professionals found a living in and around Bishopsgate.

Image

The London Tavern was once situated at the western side of Bishopsgate Street. The house was destroyed during a terrifying blaze that took place on 7 November 1765. The fire broke out at a peruque-maker’s shop opposite. The flames were carried by a high wind across the street to the property immediately adjoining the tavern, quickly spreading to other streets. Fifty houses and buildings were destroyed or damaged. The new London Tavern was designed by architect Richard Jupp and re-opened in September 1768. The size of the place was phenomenal. The dining room, known as the ‘Pillar Room’ for its Corinthian columns, was decorated with medallions and garlands. At the top of the building there was a ballroom that extended over the full length of the structure which, if laid out as a banqueting area, offered room to hundreds of people. The walls were covered with paintings. The cellars occupied the whole basement of the building. They were filled with barrels of porter, pipes of port, and butts of sherry. At any time some 1,200 bottles of champagne were kept in store, in addition to six or seven hundred bottles of claret and ‘floods’ of other wines. The original purpose of the tavern was not so much to create a venue for feasting, but to offer space for public meetings.

Image

In 1817, Robert Owen was determined to publicize his conversion from philanthropic cotton prince to socialist campaigner. He spent much of his time in London organizing public meetings. On 14 August he made his most notable address before an audience of hundreds of politicians, intellectuals, and followers at the London Tavern. The new religion of terrestrial paradise was promised in the tavern. In 1848, the London Chest Hospital was founded here at a meeting held by a group of nineteen City merchants and philanthropic bankers (which at the time was not a contradiction in terms), thirteen of whom were Quakers. Tuberculosis or consumption was then the major endemic killing disease, accounting for twenty per cent of all fatal illnesses. Charles Dickens presided here at the 1851 annual dinner for the General Theatrical Fund. Especially during the spring season meetings were numerous and these often concluded with a sumptuous dinner and entertainment. The London Tavern employed an army of sixty to seventy servants at any time. The majority of City companies held there banquets there; there were la large number of annual balls; Masonic Lodges met in the London Tavern, etc. Business was booming.

Image

The London Tavern holds a niche in the history of English late eighteenth century music. Dublin-born John Field was the eldest son of violinist Robert Field. He studied first with his father and his grandfather, John Field, a church organist. In 1793, the family moved to London where John Field entered an apprenticeship for seven years with Muzio Clementi, the Italian composer, pianist, and publisher who had settled in the capital. John’s first public appearance in England took place at the London Tavern on 12 December 1793, when he played a ‘Lesson on the new Grand Piano Forte’ at a benefit concert under the patronage of the Prince of Wales. In return for his instruction, Field had to work as a salesman-demonstrator in Clementi’s piano warehouse (the latter had created a successful association with the Collard family under the name of Clementi & Company; Munzio retired in 1815 after which the firm was called Collard & Collard). Field’s early talent as a composer was put to use by his Clementi who published several of young John’s piano pieces anonymously. Field’s professional career as a composer was launched on 7 February 1799 with the performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1 at the King’s Theatre. His apprenticeship expired shortly thereafter, and for the next two years he was in great demand as a concert pianist. Field’s Opus 1 Piano Sonatas was published in 1801. It was dedicated to Clementi. Field’s creation of the ‘Nocturne’ as a genre is his substantial contribution to music. Having experimented with titles such as Pastorale, Serenade, and Romance, he settled on the name when Nocturne No. 1 was published in 1812. In conception and style, Field anticipated Chopin by nearly two decades. Liszt, Mendelssohn, and other composers were influenced by the Nocturnes. These pieces strengthened the Romantic belief that music is the language of emotion that begins where words fail. They were the first ‘songs without words’. Celestial music for piano found its first expression in the London Tavern.

Image
A successful undertaking as the London Tavern depended heavily on master chefs and cooks. And management hired the best. John Farley is a figure about whom little is known apart from his best-selling book, The London Art of Cookery published in 1783 (it went into twelve editions by 1811). His claim to fame rests on this book, although ninety per cent of the text was compiled – ‘stolen’ – from two culinary best-sellers of the eighteenth century, Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747) and Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769). In 1792 Farley was listed as being cook at the London Tavern.

Image

What about the food at the famous tavern? The house was above all appreciated for its turtle soup. There were a number of London outlets where turtles were presented as a speciality. Of specific interest in this context is the Ship and Turtle tavern in Leadenhall Street. It has been claimed that the house dated back to 1377. The tavern was the meeting place of numerous Masonic lodges and a sought-after venue for corporation and companies’ livery dinners. Inevitably, management prided itself upon the quality of its turtle soup. Another house was the Queens Arms Tavern at St Paul’s Churchyard which was popular with City politicians and booksellers. Great numbers of turtles of differing sizes were being dressed at the tavern. In 1787, the New, Complete and Universal Body, or System, of Natural History describes three turtles being prepared at the tavern, ‘two of which together did not weigh three ounces, and the other exceeded nine hundred pounds in weight’. The London Tavern however enjoyed a supreme reputation when it came to turtles.

Image
For a long time turtle had been considered synonymous with filth. The word ‘tortoise’ (tartarus) means ‘resident of hell’. Turtle was not considered fit for food. The shell however was used for medicinal purposes and promoted as an aphrodisiac. At sea it was a different matter altogether. During the seventeenth century, the edibility of the giant sea turtle had been exploited by mariners and whalers. Turtles were stored on deck and would remain alive for up to a year without feeding, thus providing fresh meat for long voyages. During the nineteenth century however turtle meat developed into a delicacy wreaking havoc on the species from which it has never fully recovered. Soup was made from the green cartilage that lines the shell of the turtle. These reptiles were kept in massive tanks, which occupied a whole vault. Gastronomical wisdom at the time dictated that turtles will live well in cellars for three months as long as they were kept in the same water in which they had been transported. Changing the water would lessen the weight of the turtle and affect is flavour. An estimated 15,000 turtles were imported to London yearly. When, as a consequence, the turtle became rarer as a species, soup prices shot up dramatically to a level of imported luxuries like truffles or caviar today.

Image
Mock turtle soup was introduced by the early 1800s. This was a consommé with a calf’s head and maybe a calf’s foot, hooves or tail, and root vegetables like turnips and carrots. The non-muscular meat was used to imitate that of the turtle. This is why the John Tenniel’s illustration of ‘Alice with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon’ in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is depicted as a collection of creatures that make up the ingredients of mock turtle soup. The illustration shows the Mock Turtle with the body of a turtle, and the head, hooves, and tail of a calf. ’Turtle Soup’, as sung by the Mock Turtle in the story, makes it clear that special pots were created for this soup:

Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

A turtle soup tureen could hold up to six litres of soup in its body. Interestingly, ‘Mockturtlesuppe’ is a traditional meal in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). In 1714 the House of Hanover had succeeded the House of Stuart as monarchs of Great Britain and Ireland. Up to 1837 the Kingdom of Hanover and Britain were joined in a personal union, thus sharing the same person as their respective head of state. The union was ended when different succession laws resulted in Queen Victoria ascending the British throne and her uncle Ernest Augustus that of Hanover. During that period of close contact both the recipe and the name for the dish were transported from England to the northern part of Germany. Did mock turtle soup enhance the mutual understanding of the two nations? It certainly is a challenging question for socio-political researchers to answer. History is a lady with a wicked sense of humour.

Image

Image

The Forum Romanum, at the heart of Ancient Rome, was in the seventeenth century populated by cows, goats and cattle traders – hence the name Campo Vaccino, the ‘field of cows’. In his 1636 ‘Vue du Campo Vaccino’, Claude Lorrain painted the hustle and bustle as seen from Capitoline Hill, with the Colosseum in the distance on the left. This is Claude’s only topographically correct cityscape that has been recorded.

Image

French painter and engraver Claude Lorrain – born Claude Gellée, dit le Lorrain – is one of the great painters of the French Baroque. Along with his friend Nicolas Poussin, he defined the classicizing tendencies of the era. Claude was born into a peasant family in the Duchy of Lorraine which, at the time, was an independent region. His childhood was marred by the mounting hostilities with invading France. Jean and Anne Gellée were the owners of a small plot of land and unable to give their son the privilege of an academic education. His training was not in the art of painting. Young Claude was initially apprenticed to a pastry cook. Throughout his life, he experienced difficulty reading and writing. He left home in 1612 and travelled to Germany, before moving on to Rome where he became a studio assistant to landscapist Agostino Tassi. He visited Naples and returned to Nancy before settling permanently in Rome around 1628.

Image

Building on the foundation laid for him by northern European immigrant artists such as Titian, Elsheimer, Paul Bril, Claude became a leading seventeenth century landscapist. His paintings are points of reference in this particular genre. He was also a superior draftsman, and his spontaneous sketches of nature are equally appreciated amongst critics and art lovers. Over 1,000 extant drawings have been attributed to him. Some of his most interesting drawings include those he executed for his Liber veritatis (Book of Truth), now in the British Museum. In 1635/6 he had started cataloguing his works, making tinted outline drawings of all his pictures on the back of which he made a note of the purchase’s name. It was a shrewd effort by this French farmer’s son to keep an increasing number of forgers of his work at bay. The Liber veritatis was the first document of its kind in the history of art.

Image

In Rome, it was not until the mid-seventeenth century that landscapes were deemed fit for serious painting. Northern Europeans working there had made such views pre-eminent in some of their paintings, but it was not until the efforts of Annibale Carracci that landscape became the focus of a major Italian artist. In ‘The Sacrifice of Abraham’ (ca.1600) the subject that justifies the title occupies a minor place.
Image

The centrepiece is a tree growing at the edge of a precipitous bluff, whilst great attention is given to the mountains in the distance, and to the clouds floating over the horizon. The scene of Abraham about to bring down his dagger over the neck of the kneeling Isaac is lodged in the top left corner, almost as an addition. Carracci’s disciple Domenico Zampieri, known as Il Domenichino, reserved an even more modest space for ‘The Flight to Egypt’ (1621/3). A tiny Mary riding a donkey, followed by Joseph, appears in a corner at the bottom of the composition. Religion seems an excuse to a painter who is eager to depict nature as he sees it. Nevertheless, the stated themes of the paintings remain religious.

Image

Albrecht Dürer may have drawn some of the most superb landscapes of European art, but most painters rejected landscape as un-classical and secular. The former quality was not in line with Renaissance art which tried to emulate the work of the ancients. The second quality found little patronage in Counter-Reformation Rome, which – with papal interference – demanded grand subjects worthy of ‘high painting’. Landscape for its own sake reflected an aesthetic approach regarded as lacking in moral seriousness. Rome, the theological centre of Italian and European art, fought to hold on to the past. A hierarchy of subjects, which included classical, religious, mythological and allegorical themes, placed history painting above all other genres. Portraits, scenes of everyday life, still life, and landscapes were seen as inferior topics. Even as landscapes became accepted as subjects in the course of the seventeenth century, they were still often created as settings for biblical, mythological, or historical scenes. The narrative was of overriding importance.

Since Antiquity, artists had gone to Rome to complete their training, but by the end of the sixteenth century different developments combined to give rise to a new profane genre. Crucial factors were the presence of a cosmopolitan community of artists (especially from the Low Countries); the attraction of Rome to visitors and the emergence of ‘tourism’; the impact of printmaking on the circulation of images (with Antwerp as a centre of European distribution); the increasing interest in works by Renaissance masters; and the growing commercial success of landscape painting. By the mid-seventeenth century, the genre had become a category in its own right. Claude Lorrain stood at the centre of these changes. His style of painting and the subjects he favoured are consistent throughout his oeuvre, but that is not to say that there is no evolution in his art. His early paintings are steeped in the northern European landscape tradition, complete with a variety of picturesque details. Young Claude spent long days roaming the Roman countryside, making numerous sketches which formed the basis for oil paintings to be completed in his studio. As he matured his paintings became increasingly classical in tone and theme.
08

Later works exude a more melancholic atmosphere than his bustling early pictures. He painted a pastoral world of fields and valleys not distant from castles and towns. If the ocean horizon is represented, it is from the setting of a busy port. Perhaps to feed the public’s desire for paintings with noble themes, his pictures include demi-gods, heroes and saints. Even though his sketchbooks prove that he was more interested in pure scenography, Claude cunningly met this demand. Claude’s paintings flattered the culture of his clients by alluding to the Classics or Bible, while at the same time teeming with anachronisms in order to more closely resemble contemporary Roman landscapes for their nostalgic enjoyment.

In ‘Paysage avec l’embarquement de Sainte Paule à Ostie’ (1639), for example, the port is filled with modern ships that sailed around the Italian coast. European painting is full of similar anachronisms in the depiction of historical themes. As late as the early twentieth century Giorgio de Chirico introduced his deceptive ‘exploitations of tradition’ by inserting modern smoke stacks and trains into the background of seemingly ancient cityscapes.
In the second quarter of the seventeenth century, European landscape painting took two opposite directions. Artists like Claude went in for ‘ideal’ views of an eternal Arcadia, while the Dutch masters of the genre (the word landscape is borrowed from the Dutch ‘landschap’) closely observed nature. The introduction of the term was logical because the Netherlands was one of the first places that landscape had become a popular subject for painting.
10
The rising Protestant middle class sought secular art for their homes, creating the need for new subjects to meet their tastes. Landscapes helped fill this need. Claude Lorrain’s paintings on the other hand exemplify the genre labelled as ‘idealized’ landscape. They are rooted in a strong naturalism, but at the same time beautified and idealized. A sense of nostalgia is evoked by the presence of ancient ruins and figures in antique togas. The palette is one of blues (using ultramarine, the most expensive pigment of his day made from lapis lazuli, a rare precious stone), greens and greys. Much like the later Impressionists, Claude was fascinated by the effects of light. His preference was for harmonious scenes of dawn or twilight, whilst never showing nature’s brute realities. He searched for perfection, an image of nature as it should be. He created ‘une mythologie douce’, an aesthetic that chooses the bucolic over the shocking, and withdrawal from the world over the torments of war. He desired the peaceful song of the flute rather than the military sound of drums. This kind of approach appealed to his audience. Landscape painting may have been perceived as a lesser genre in certain circles, but Claude Lorrain achieved enormous success in his lifetime, garnering commissions from aristocrats, popes, and the King of Spain Philip IV.
11

Scottish and English travellers on the eighteenth-century Grand Tour bought many of his works. As a consequence, Claude exerted considerable influence on English landscape artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Turner was especially indebted to him, and – in a classic case of creative rivalry – tried to outdo Claude’s grand compositions. The Turner Bequest is the name given to the gift of a large number of paintings and drawings which the artist made posthumously to the nation. Most of these works are now in Tate Britain and some are hung in the National Gallery. In his will the artist specified that he wanted his ‘Dido building Carthage’ to be hung between Claude’s
‘L’Embarquement de la Reine de Saba’ and ‘Le marriage d’Isaac et Rebecca’ – works which formed the prime inspiration for his painting.
The late development of ‘pure’ landscape painting justifies the conclusion that the genre was preceded by the cityscape. In retrospect, that is not surprising. Buildings, streets and cities are man-made, manifestations of human pride and hubris. An inhabitant of Florence, Antwerp or Bruges would be eager to boast the achievement of builders, sculptors and artists who had contributed to the beauty of his/her city. Mankind was on the move – for the first time the proud notion of progress entered our thinking. Moreover, the artist attempting to depict the elegant architecture and buzzing street life of his day was not burdened by this load of religious or mythological baggage that the landscapist carried with him. He was not concerned with moral seriousness or religious high-mindedness. His eyes were focused on the here and now, on the beauty that surrounded him, on the energy that captivated him. Painting was an expression of civic pride. Such urban pride was also reflected in a different type of cityscape. Between the mid-sixteenth and the early nineteenth century, many of the great cities of Europe applied the artistic tradition of the cityscape to their coins and medals – the most circulated art medium. These coins not only expressed urban pride and civic power, but also showcased exquisite skills of engraving. The images feature churches, citadels, fortifications, harbours, and civic buildings, emphasizing military or commercial power, and above all, divine protection and favour. Again, Antwerp stood at the centre of developments.
12

The Roman Catholic Roettiers family of engravers, goldsmiths and medallists came to prominence with Philip Roettiers (born in 1596). He was a goldsmith by training and a medallist by specialty. Philip was the founder of a dynasty of engravers and medallists who for two centuries were of service in various capacities to the kings of England, Spain, and France.

nigredo

Image

The Rua das Flores is a narrow steep street in the old town of Lisbon. Two monuments stand close together at the southern end of the Bairro Alto, the statue of Luis de Camões, the celebrated poet, and, a few steps down the Rua do Alecrim, that of Eça de Queiróz, the national novelist, looking serenely over the female figure of Truth. Ever since Bernini created his famous sculpture (Borghese Palace in Rome) truth has been personified as a naked woman. De Queiróz’s fictional output tends to suggest that the naked body may well be the moment of truth, but the naked truth itself is something we prefer to ignore. The unmasking of hypocrisy in bourgeois society was one of his main motivations for putting pen to paper.

Image

In 1703 England and Portugal signed the Methuen Treaty. At the start of the War of the Spanish Succession Portugal allied with France because the French had guaranteed naval protection. However, in 1702 the British Navy sailed close to Lisbon on the way to and from Cadiz, proving to the Portuguese authorities that the French could not keep their promise. Talks with the Grand Alliance about switching sides began soon after. The resulting treaty was negotiated by John Methuen, the British Ambassador to Portugal. It established closer trading relations between the two nations, allowing English woolen cloth to be admitted into Portugal free of duty and, in return, Portuguese wines imported into England would be subject to a third less taxation than those brought in from elsewhere. Port was about to hit Britain. The real impact was felt during and after the Napoleonic Wars when French products were virtually unobtainable. Soon British wine merchants migrated to Portugal and established the famous port houses of Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Graham, Osborne, Sandeman, Taylor and Warre. The British aristocracy became addicted to port and afflicted by gout, whilst English poets fell in love with Portugal – and with Sintra in particular.

Image

The name Sintra evokes a series of cultural memories. In 1825, Almeida Garret published his poem ‘Camões’. It signalled the beginning of the Romantic obsession with the village of Sintra in Estremadura, near Lisbon. Sintra had been part of the itinerary of English Grand Tourists. William Beckford, a wealthy aristocrat, art collector, and author of the Gothic (spiced up with Oriental elements) novel Vathek, landed in Lisbon in 1787. Having spent time at Sintra he praised the area as a ‘vast temple of nature’. The following decade he rented the estate that would later be known as the Palace of Montserrate (having been expelled from Britain for sodomy). Robert Southey spent some years in Portugal.

Image

In his 1808 Letters Written during a Journey in Spain and a Short Residence in Portugal he describes Sintra as ‘the most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe’. Lord Byron visited Sintra in 1809. In a letter of 16 July he refers to the village as ‘the most beautiful perhaps in the world’. He subsequently immortalized the place in ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ as a paradise on earth (‘Cintra’s glorious Eden’). What makes the place so special and atmospheric? The sudden eruption of Sintra’s steep hills in an otherwise flat landscape has an effect on its climate. The mellow mists that shroud it through much of the summer have attracted rich Lisboans for centuries as an escape from heat in the city. Mistiness lends its ruins their special charm. The medieval Capucin monastery with cork-lined walls (known as the Cork Convent) is hardly ever exposed to sun light. The gardens of Montserrate offer vegetation in rainforest humidity. Even now, many of art shops in town sell engravings by English artist William Burnett who, in the 1830s, captured the splendour of the area.

Image

Few Portuguese artists on the other hand were attracted to settling in Britain – with one notable exception. Novelist José Maria Eça de Queiróz was a master of realism. Many contemporary authors admired his work. Émile Zola rated his fiction higher than that of Gustave Flaubert. Others compared the novelist to Dickens, Balzac or Tolstoy. Born an illegitimate child in 1845, he was officially recorded as the son of José Maria de Almeida Teixeira de Queiróz, a Brazilian judge and an unknown mother. He studied law at the University of Coimbra, the oldest academic institution in Portugal and one of the earliest universities in Europe. Eça’s first known work was a series of prose poems, published in the Gazeta de Portugal, which eventually appeared in a posthumous collection edited by Batalha Reis entitled Prosas bárbaras.

Image

In 1869/70, Eça travelled to Egypt where he was present at the opening of the Suez Canal. The experience left a mark on several of his works, most notably the murder mystery O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra (The Mystery of the Sintra Road, 1870), written in collaboration with Ramalho Ortigão. The novel was turned into a film in 2007. When he took up a post in Leiria to work as a municipal administrator, Eça de Queiróz wrote his first realist novel, O Crime do Padre Amore (The Sin of Father Amaro), which is set in the city and first appeared in 1875. In his fiction the author regularly attacked Christianity and was highly critical of the role of the Catholic Church plays in society.

Image

Eça made his way up in the Portuguese consular service and spent two years in Havana before being posted in England. For five years, between 1874 and 1879, he was stationed at no. 53 Grey Street in Newcastle upon Tyne from where he dispatched his diplomatic reports on British affairs and industrial conditions. In spite of a dislike of country and climate, his long stay proved to be productive from an artistic point of view. His output included a series of ‘Cartas de Londres’ (London Letters) which were printed in the Lisbon daily newspaper Diário de Notícias and afterwards appeared in book form as Cartas de Inglaterra. As early as 1878 he had at least given a name to his masterpiece Os Maias (The Maias), though this novel was largely written during his later residence in Bristol and published a decade later. All in all, Eça stayed in England for some fifteen years, suffering the damp weather and the ‘indecent manner of cooking vegetables’, which nevertheless stimulated a considerable creative output. Whilst in Manchester, Friedrich Engels formulated his social criticism by observing the excesses of capitalism and its disastrous effects on the working population. Accordingly, Eça found a cutting edge to his fictional social realism by reporting on the appalling industrial conditions in the North-East of the country. In 1888, he finally moved to his beloved France becoming Portuguese Consul-General in Paris where he died in 1900.

Image

Written between 1877 and 1878, the manuscript of A tragédia da Rua das Flores (The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers) was discovered amongst the author’s papers after his death. For more than a hundred years it remained in the hands of Eça’s family who judged the contents to be shocking and refused its publication. It was only in 1980, when the author’s estate was handed to the Biblioteca Nacional, that (two) editions of the embryonic novel were published in quick succession. The first English translation was timed to coincide with the centenary of Eça’s death. One night at the theatre, Vitor da Silva, a young law graduate, sees a strikingly beautiful woman: Genoveva de Molineux. She claims to have been born in Madeira and to have lived for many years in Paris. The truth about her past gradually begins to surface, as does the dark secret that lies behind the deep mutual attraction between her and Vitor. The Rua das Flores is not mentioned until the second half of the novel and appears when Genoveva’s sugar daddy Dâmasio sets her up in a third floor apartment on the corner of the street. Whilst the house was fitted out for her the couple – much to the anger of Vitor – spent some time away at Sintra’s famous Lawrence hotel. The tragedy at the street is Genoveva’s suicide (one of numerous cases of female suicide in late nineteenth century fiction) when she learns the awful truth about the real relationship between herself and Vitor and jumps from her balcony.
Image

The tragic side of the story does not preclude humour and caricature. The author masterly dissects a world in which only surface counts by providing a gripping portrayal of a class consumed by hypocrisy and greed, drawing such characters as the fat pleasure-seeking libertine; the love-sick gin-drinking middle-aged English governess; the maid of many lovers; the aspirant painter who changes his aesthetic theories more often than his pants; the poetically inclined lawyer whose masterpiece is published in a women’s magazine, and the classy concubine short of cash but with aristocratic mannerisms. Within a framework of very precise topography and geographical location (one can literally follow Vitor’s footsteps) Eça’s Lisbon society is a colourful mosaic of vanity, self-delusion, and sexual intrigue. His fiction is characterized by great narrative fluency, a sharp eye for detail, and ruthless satire. Life is dominated by sordid affairs, corruption and a cheap moralism. To this rich mixture, his later writing added a new dimension. The theme that dominates both The Maias (his most acclaimed novel) and The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers is incest. The dynamic of both novels derives from the inevitability of a relationship between lovers who are unaware of their blood ties.

Image

In Oedipus Rex Sophocles turned a tale from Greek mythology into a play in which the title character unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. Freud introduced the concept into his psycho-analytical framework. De Queiroz’s plot to his novel can be read as reiteration of the catastrophe enshrined by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex. While the dramatist presented only the fact of the unnatural crime, De Queiroz describes all its allure and physicality. In The Maias, the protagonists are brother and sister; in The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers, they are mother and son. Incest appears regularly in the nineteenth century novel, although rarely in explicit terms. It is a suggestion, an undertone. In William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Pendennis (1848/50) however the theme of incest is blatantly evident. Helen Pendennis, mother of the main character Arthur, seems to lust after her son. A lonely but sexually alluring widow, she is aware that the object of her desire is her own boy. She broods over his affairs, even throwing one young lady into the street because of her flirting with him. She sabotages any opportunity Arthur might have at an affair. In line with other Thackeray’s works, Pendennis offers a satiric picture of human character and aristocratic society. Both tone and subject-matter of his writing would have been appreciated by Eça de Queiróz. It is most likely that he read this novel during his stay as a diplomat in England.

Image

Image

Near Place Pigalle is a leafy cul-de-sac, closed by a wrought iron secured gate, which is called Avenue Frochot. Developed in the 1830s, the avenue has an enticing artistic history. Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo lived here at one time; Toulouse-Lautrec had a studio at no. 15 which at the entrance shows a fine example of Art Deco stain glass; Théodore Chassériau, residing at no. 26, was neighbour to Gustave Moreau. Later film director Jean Renoir and gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt settled in the avenue. Composer Victor Masse died at number no.1. The property, partly visible from outside the gates, is supposed to be a haunted house, because of an unresolved murder and various unexplained deaths.

Image

Pablo Picasso with his partner and model Fernande Olivier (real name: Amélie Lang – Picasso painted some sixty portraits of her) had started their stay in Paris at a Bateau Lavoir apartment. The Bateau was a gloomy mass of dirty premises made of beams and planks where between 1904 and 1914 a number of artists and poets would settle. In September 1909 however the couple moved from there into a furnished place on the Boulevard de Clichy with two windows overlooking the gardens of Avenue Frochot. There he painted ‘L’avenue Frochot, vu de l’atelier de Picasso’.

Nearby Rue Frochot is less exclusive, but certainly more lively. For a start, the street has a place in the history of the artist’s portrayal of onstage performers and performances. In 1886, twenty-two-year-old Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec entered the Dihau apartment at no. 6 Rue Frochot. He had come there to meet his cousins, and to gaze at a painting that had been given to the Dihau family fifteen years earlier by its creator, Edgar Degas.

Image

The painting was ‘L’orchestre de l’Opéra’. Its central subject was bassoonist Désiré Hippolyte Dihau. Toulouse-Lautrec was inspired by the canvas. Within the decade, he would try his own hand at three portraits of the musician. Both Degas and Lautrec portrayed Dihau playing his bassoon. Both subsequently turned from music to stage and dance – ballet and cabaret – for subjects in their creative work. At one time, no. 4 Rue Frochot was the location of one of the most famous salons in Paris. A salon was a gathering of people who were invited by an inspiring hostess. Such social meetings were held for the refinement of taste and knowledge through conversation and exchange of ideas. The salon was an Italian invention of the sixteenth century. The word ‘salon’ first appeared in France in 1664 (from the Italian word salone which itself is derived from sala or reception hall). Before the end of the seventeenth century, such gatherings were often held in the bedroom of the lady of the house. Reclining on her luxurious bed, she invited close friends who would gather around her. The salon flourished in Paris throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and served as a meeting ground for political, social, and cultural discussion. And there was plenty to discuss between 1770 through 1830, years in which France experienced a plethora of change and growth, politically, socially, and culturally. The arrival and departure of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Restoration, each left their marks on the Parisian salon. The presence of a beautiful and educated patroness gave additional charm to the concept of the salon. Aristocratic and upper bourgeoisie women known as salonnières organized salons from their homes.

Image

The first renowned salon in France was the Hôtel de Rambouillet (formerly the Hôtel de Pisani), close to the Louvre, where from 1607 until her death Rome-born Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, entertained her guests. She received her visitors in a salon painted in blue, the ‘chambre bleue’. Almost all major personages of the French aristocracy and literature of the time frequented her salon, including Corneille, Malherbe, Jean de La Fontaine, Madame de Sévigné, Paul Scarron, and many other prominent figures in social and cultural life of the age. The gatherings at the Hôtel de Rambouillet established the salon’s rules of etiquette which resembled the earlier codes of Italian chivalry.

Image

Molière’s satire Précieuses ridicules was levelled at the numerous coteries which in the course of years had sprung up in imitation of Rambouillet. The idea of the salon and the role of the ‘salonnière’ were from the beginning controversial. Some argued that the salon offered women an education and a way out from the shadows of a pre-determined place in society. It granted her independence. To others, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, these ladies represented the corruption, idleness and emptiness of aristocratic life. The controversy lingers on in contemporary historical debate.

Image

The salon persisted into the nineteenth century, not just in Paris but in most European capitals (Berlin, Vienna, and elsewhere), and became woven into the fabric of cultural and political life. The role of salonnière however was increasingly taken over by a different type of lady. By the late nineteenth century courtesans – the ‘grandes horizontales’ – had reached a level of social acceptance in many circles and settings. As a figure, the courtisan appeared widely in a fictional context.

Image

Honoré de Balzac wrote about the Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes; Alexandre Dumas fils published La dame aux camélias which centres around the courtesan Marguerite Gautier (Verdi chaged her name to Violetta Valéry in his opera version of the novel – ‘La Traviata’ translates as the Wayward One); Émile Zola introduced Nana into fiction; and Marcel Proust gave immortality to Odette Swann. In real life a number of courtesans started hosting a salon. Esther Lachmann, later Mme Villoing, later Mme la Marquise de Païva, later Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck, a lady of Polish Jewish descent born in a Moscow ghetto where her father worked as a weaver, was the most successful of nineteenth century courtesans.

Image

When sharing a bed with the celebrated pianist Henri Herz in Paris, she invited various guests to attend her salon – these included Richard Wagner, Hans von Bülow, Théophile Gautier and Émile de Giradin. At a Baden spa she met Portuguese marquis Albino Francesco de Païva-Araujo. She married him on 5 June 1851, acquiring a fortune, a title, and her nickname, ‘La Païva’. She left him the next day. Her final conquest was Prussian Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck (who gave her the famous yellow Donnersmarck diamonds). With his money, she erected the elegant Hôtel de Païva at the Champs-Élysées (designed by Pierre Manguin), a mansion notorious for lush parties that became symbolic for the decadent taste of the Second Empire.

Adolphe Monticelli’s painting ‘Une soireé chez La Païva’ gives an indication of the sumptuous surroundings in which these gatherings took place. Apollonie Sabatier, nicknamed ‘La Présidente’ by Edmond de Goncourt, was a bohémienne and courtesan who during the 1850s hosted a splendid salon at no. 4 Rue Frochot, a spacious apartment consisting of seven rooms built in 1838. There she met and entertained the élite of French art at the time, from Gérard de Nerval to Gustave Flaubert, Maxime Du Camp, Alfred de Musset, Hector Berlioz, Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve Jules de Barbey d’Aurevilly, and Édouard Manet.

Image

Between 1852 and 1854 Charles Baudelaire addressed a number of poems to Apollonie, celebrating her as his Madonna and Muse (later collected in Les fleurs du mal). Gustave Flaubert and Théophile Gautier dedicated articles to her, fashionable Vincent Vidal painted her portrait, and in 1847 Auguste Clésinger sculpted her figure in marble as ‘Femme piquée par un serpent’ (woman bitten by a snake) which created a scandal at the Salon of that year. Belgian aristocrat and industrialist Alfred Mosselman who had made a fortune in civil engineering paid her bills (this eventually caused his bankruptcy which forced him to auction his famous art collection in the early 1860s). Gustave Courbet portrayed the pair in his famous painting ‘L’atelier du peintre’. After Mosselman’s death, Sabatier became mistress to art collector Sir Richard Wallace. Over the years she had developed a fine and costly feeling for aesthetics.

Image

The name Frochot holds an honourable place in the annals of Parisian history. In the Middle-Ages, one of the Eastern hills near the capital was named ‘Champ-l’Evêque’ because it belonged to the Bishop of Paris. In 1626 the Jesuits acquired the land and property which they turned into a convalescence home. François d’Aix, Seigneur de La Chaise, also known as the Père Lachaise, spent most of his time in the Jesuits’ house and contributed to its beauty by creating idyllic gardens. The Jesuits left in 1762. The domain was acquired by Count Nicolas Frochot who, at the time, was prefect of Paris (in 1806 his portrait was painted by Andrea Appiani the Elder). He decided to use it as a burial ground.

Image

The cemetery was designed by leading architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart. Originally simply known as ‘cimétìère de l’Est’, it became soon known as the ‘Père Lachaise’, in loving memory of the confessor of Louis XIV. The cemetery was styled in the shape of an English garden and its broad avenues were decorated with lime and chestnut trees. When it opened for business on 21 May 1804, it was meant for Parisians living in one of the four districts of the Right Bank. However, affluent people did not want to be buried in what was considered a poor district. Many traditional superstitions concerning interment remained unchanged. Christians refused to have their graves dug in a place that had not been blessed by the Church. The opening of a new graveyard posed a particular challenge. No one would volunteer one of their deceased relatives to be the first to be interred, because of the widespread belief that the Devil would claim the soul of that particular corpse for himself.

Image

The seventeen hectares of the cemetery remained empty until, in 1817, Frochot decided to take the initiative of transferring the ashes of Héloïse and Abélard there, as well as those of Jean de La Fontaine and Molière. The latter had died from pulmonary tuberculosis, possibly contracted when he was imprisoned for debt as a young man. His death had become a legendary tale: on 17 February 1617 he collapsed on stage in a fit of coughing and haemorrhaging while performing in his last play, which ironically was entitled Le malade imaginaire. He insisted on completing his performance. Afterwards he collapsed again before being taken home, where he died a few hours later, without receiving the last rites because two priests refused to visit an actor while a third arrived too late. The superstition that yellow brings bad luck to actors may originate from the colour of the clothing Molière was wearing at the time of his demise (in medieval religious plays yellow was the colour worn by the actor playing the devil). The Church refused to bury actors on consecrated ground, just like heretics, sorcerers or usurers. The stage was considered suspicious. Molière’s widow asked Louis XIV if her spouse could be granted a ‘normal’ funeral at night. The King quietly agreed. Molière was most probably buried in a dark corner of Saint Joseph Cemetery which had been reserved for those who had committed suicide or those who had not been baptized.

Image
To remove Molière from St Joseph to Père Lachaise therefore presented the authorities with a particular problem: which one was his corpse? It has been suggested that the commissioners in charge simply dug up a random skeleton from the plot and introduced him as Molière. The same was done for De La Fontaine (despite the fact that the poet had been buried in a different cemetery). Molière’s sarcophagus in Père Lachaise bears his name but does not contain his body. The alleged tooth, jawbone, and vertebra of the playwright, which had once been honoured as relics, probably were taken from the ‘false’ Molière as well.

Image

Nicholas Frochot’s plan worked out well. In the years 1820 to 1830, the cemetery became fashionable amongst the Parisian upper middle class. Everyone wanted to be seen dead in Père Lachaise. Among the famous residents stand the tombs of Honoré de Balzac, Guillaume Apollinaire, Frédéric Chopin, Jim Morrison, Alfred de Musset, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Proust and, of course, Frochot himself. Apollonie Sabatier is buried in the old cemetery of Neuilly-sur-Seine, but many of the celebreties who frequented her salon on Rue Frochot were later buried at Père Lachaise. If life is indeed a preparation for death, then Sabatier assisted her guests in a fine manner for their departure and final meeting with Frochot/Lachaise.

Image