Thursday, November 10, 2016

Le Carreau des Halles (1880)

Victor-Gabriel Gilbert: Le Carreau des Halles

The central markets of Paris have a long history that begins in the twelfth century, with the creation by Louis VII in 1137 a street market in the locality of Champeaux, on former wetlands outside the walls. The construction of wooden halls (“Les Halles”) under Philippe Auguste and Louis IX and development of the city beyond the marshes girdling it contributed to the main center of commerce and trade in the capital and surrounding areas. A true masterpiece of lightness and transparency, Les Halles, built by Baltard, were soon seen as the symbol of the new metallic architecture in the minds of his contemporaries and became a source of inspiration for writers and artists. One of the first to celebrate the modern Les Halles, even before their completion, was Émile Zola, who devoted his famous novel Le Ventre de Paris to it. Fascinated by the dynamism and energy that overflowed the place, he painted an exciting picture of the daily life in the pavilions, in which he describes in considerable detail the riot of smells, colors and various noises. Following Zola, of whom he was a fervent admirer, the realist painter Victor Gabriel Gilbert also devoted several paintings to this theme in the 1880s, trying to capture the picturesque and colorful atmosphere. One of them is an open air market scene in the main square, the tile, on the side of the Saint-Eustache Church, where gardeners and vegetable growers possessed fixed locations. Shoppers flock around the stalls of various fruits and vegetables guarded by a buxom peasant, her head covered with a scarf. In the background, heavy traffic animates the streets nearby, drowned in a flood of horse carriages and strollers. [L’Histoire par l’Image (via Google Translate)]

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