The exhibition takes its name from a two-volume publication of 1845/46. The publisher of the original Le Diable à Paris thought up a frame story in which a devil is to describe life in Paris for King Satan. Too idle to take on this infernal task himself, he used material by famous nineteenth-century writers such as George Sand, Honoré de Balzac and Théophile Gautier. The book illustrations by Paul Gavarni are essentially a series of satirical genre images. Honoré Daumier adopted a number of the compositions or was inspired by them, as visitors will see in the caricatures by this artist likewise on display in the show.
The painting Paris »Vue des tours de Notre-Dame« (ca. 1900) and writings by Étienne Moreau-Nélaton (who is actually better known as an art collector and art historian) are to be understood against the background of the period literature, particularly Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831) – as is Méryon’s investigation of the grotesques on the Paris cathedral in the etching Le Stryge (1853). Hugo’s novel raised people’s awareness of the architectural beauty of Old Paris, and can even be said to have laid the cornerstone for the discipline of historical monument preservation. A comparison of the cityscape seen in Israël Silvestre’s mid-seventeenth-century etchings with panorama photographs produced by the Braun & Cie studio of Dornach some two hundred years later show how the metropolis had been transformed by the Baron Haussmann’s urban development measures. Shots of urban settings by Charles Marville or, later, Eugène Atget merit appreciation as incunabula of early photography and historical sources alike.
An exhibition catalogue (48 pages, approx. 50 illustrations, ISBN 978-3-9812986-1-1) has been published.