Mapping Paris

Economic Changes in 19th Century Paris

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How were economics expressed in or an expression of the tensions between Old and New Paris?


"The Balcony" by Manet, 1868

Before the Revolution of 1789, Paris was a city centered around aristocrats. These people held control of Parliament, and lived in luxury on estates subsidized by the government. In part, the Revolution was a rejection of this old order by the newly developing bourgeoisie, hungry for an easier lifestyle. By the early 1830's, wealth previously monopolized by aristocrats had filtered down to the bourgeoisie. The economic trends and developments of the 19th century continued to be an expression of the growing bourgeois class, and the decline of the Aristocracy. Some relevant economic trends can be seen in the redivision of space -specifically in changing houses and shopping venues- as well as in the rise of business.

This painting, by Impressionist Edouard Manet, depicts a family on the balcony of their Paris apartment. Their dress, which is well made, but not richly decorated, informs the viewer that they are probably from either the middle or upper bourgeoisie class. The man appears to be presiding over his family, proud, and comfortable with his status. The standing woman wears a simple hat and gloves, and is carrying an umbrella, probably on her way out. The sitting girl seems almost petulant, taking her status for granted. The balcony itself is typical of the newly restored upper class apartments.

 


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