Le Diable à Paris

A metropolis in transition
31 July – 28 November 2010

The exhibition takes its name from "Le Diable à Paris", a two-volume publication from 1845/46: its editor devised a frame story in which a devil is supposed to describe life in Paris for King Satan. Too comfortable to undertake this hellish task himself, he uses material taken from famous 19th century writers such as George Sand, Honoré de Balzac or Théophile Gautier. The book illustrations after Paul Gavarni show a satirical portrait of manners. Some compositions were taken from Honoré Daumier or inspired him, as his caricatures, also on display, show.

The painting Paris vue des tours de Notre-Dame (c. 1900) and writings by Étienne Moreau-Nélaton, who was better known as an art collector and art historian, should be understood against the background of contemporary literature, especially Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831), as should Méryon's examination of the grotesques of Paris Cathedral in the etching Le Stryge (1853). Thus, this literary work raised awareness of the architectural beauty of old Paris and laid the foundation for monument preservation efforts. A comparison of the old cityscape in etchings by Israël Silvestre from the mid-17th century with panoramic photographs taken some two hundred years later by the Braun & Cie. studio in Dornach illustrates the transformation of the metropolis in the course of Baron Haussmann's reconstruction measures. Photographs of urban planning situations by Charles Marville or later by Eugène Atget are valued today as incunabula of early photography as well as historical sources.

A catalogue (48 pages, approx. 50 illustrations, ISBN 978-3-9812986-1-1) was published to accompany the exhibition.