Street furniture, a symbol of Paris

Street furniture, a symbol of Paris

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Title: The Morris Column.

Author : BERAUD Jean (1849 - 1935)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: (corner of rue Lafitte and boulevard des Italiens) Oil on wood.

Storage place: Carnavalet Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bullozsite web

Picture reference: 00-010683 / P1663

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Publication date: February 2006

Historical context

Columns in the street

The multiplication of places of entertainment such as theaters or circuses on the boulevards during the XIXe century resulted in an accumulation of advertising posters made to extol these shows.

As early as 1839, the Prefect of Police Gabriel Delessert authorized the installation of "Moorish columns", poster stands outside and urinals inside. These columns will be improved under Napoleon III by the Promenades and Plantations Service, directed since 1854 by engineer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand: a screen placed in front of the column partially isolates the interior of the vespasienne from the gaze of walkers while

the whole is now lit by a gas burner. The architect Gabriel Davioud redesigned the roof and replaced the masonry with a lighter cast iron and glass structure.

From the outset, it was the billboard companies that covered the construction costs against the authorization to put up their posters, but it was the Alphand service that imposed on the concessionaire the obligation to align and 'interview.

These "urinal columns" were demolished in 1877, but by the 1860s their dual function raised criticism as the embellishments of Paris caused the disappearance of traditional display surfaces. A competition is launched to find a new medium: a column exclusively reserved for displaying theater programs. A commission chaired by Count Baciochi, Minister of State and General Superintendent of Parisian Theaters, hears the two potential candidates: the Morris House, theater poster printer, and the Drouart et Cie company.

1er August 1868, Mr. Morris wins the contract: 150 columns with a monopoly over fifteen years. Municipal employees maintain it against the possibility of storing their brooms, wheelbarrows and other gardening tools in certain columns to which they hold the keys.

Image Analysis

Like a portrait

Painter-witness of Parisian life during the Belle Époque, Jean Béraud was very keen to describe the effervescence of the Grands Boulevards.

Insensitive to the aesthetic research of the painters of his time, he adopts an impressionist technique here. The apparent and released touch reflects the experience of city dwellers immersed in the crowd and allows the viewer to grasp the instantaneous and ephemeral character of the encounters made in the city.

In this small panel in oil on wood, the artist paints a true portrait of the Morris column which stood at the corner of rue Laffitte and boulevard des Italiens. The choice of a vertical format, historically reserved for the portrait genre, confirms this intention. The plastic echo between the hat of the male figure in the foreground and the roof of the column completes the personalization of the aedicule. Adopting a slight low-angle view makes this new piece of street furniture almost equal in size to the buildings in the background. This monumentality is accentuated by the spindly, bare tree trunks that line the boulevard. The only colored elements against a background in shades of browns and blacks, the posters reserved for advertising the shows seem to radiate out in the greyness of this humid winter day. This luminous intensity of the posters shows how much the spots of color are now inseparable from the urban landscape for painters.


The first standardized street furniture

The first concerted street furniture program in Paris was set up in the second half of the 19th century.e century, when Haussmann decided, for the safety and comfort of the pedestrian, to furnish the newly created gardens, squares and sidewalks. In addition to their utilitarian function, they also have an aesthetic role, and the prefect entrusted the architect Gabriel Davioud with the task of designing and producing the kiosks, vespasiennes, Morris columns, benches, lampposts, tree grates in series. The decor of this furniture, most often inspired by the plant world, brings nature into the city, like an extension of the green spaces dear to Napoleon III. There is also an oriental influence in the bulbs, pinnacles and domes with scales. Cast iron, stone, slate, wood and glass unite to create a polychromy typical of the Second Empire.

As a rule, this furniture takes place, like the trees, on a line set back slightly from the curb, however leaving sufficient space on the side of the buildings and creating a separation between vehicles and pedestrians. In addition, these elements are arranged in a regular manner - for example, an interval of 42 meters separated each of the 96 kiosks intended for the sale of newspapers, flowers or refreshments which were on the Grands Boulevards - and constitute a line of flight. which directs the gaze of the walker towards the square or the monument punctuating the way.

The homogeneity of style, material and color as well as the regularity of the layout of the furniture designed by Davioud brought a new unity to the city, while the lightness of its forms was inscribed as a playful counterpoint to the mineral mass. buildings.

The candelabra and the Morris column quickly became symbols of Paris, and their installation from 1860 in the neighboring towns marked the latter's annexation to the capital.

  • architecture
  • Paris
  • Parisians
  • publicity
  • theater
  • town planning
  • city
  • Haussmann (Georges Eugène)
  • engineer


Bernard LANDAU (dir.), The Grands Boulevards: A journey of innovation and modernity, Paris, Artistic action of the City of Paris, 2000.Pierre PINON, Atlas of Haussmannian Paris, Paris, Parigramme Publishing, 2002.The Grands Boulevards, catalog of the Carnavalet Museum exhibition, June 25-October 20, 1985, Paris, Paris-Museums Publishing House, 1985.

To cite this article

Béatrice MÉON-VINGTRINIER, "Street furniture, a symbol of Paris"

Video: Live: Protesters launch fireworks at police in Paris #France #Protests #PoliceBrutality #France


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