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The Changing Streets of Paris : Gaslights

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The above image on the left is a daguerreotype of a Parisian gaslight taken in 1855 by an unknown photographer. Lights such as these allowed citizens to walk, shop, and socialize after dark. Gaslights are a simple example of the effects of new technology on the culture of Paris.

The image on the right is of the intersection of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Rue Lafitte drawn by Eugene Lami in 1842. Because of the lighting, the bourgeoisie were able to stroll the streets of Paris after dark. This image shows how the new technology of gaslights affected Parisian culture.

 


The Introduction of Gaslights into Parisian Culture

Haussmann's technological changes to Paris from 1853-1870 included the installation of 15000 gaslights. These lights, combined with the widened streets, improved the safety of the streets of Paris.
In terms of bourgeois convenience and social life, shops could now stay open until 10:00 at night, transforming the Paris street life. Over time, the gaslights began to blend into the cityscape and assimilate into the daily lives of the Parisians.


C. Marville, Streetlight, Pont du Carrousel, n.d. (Rice, 99)


The painting below is Renoir's Moulin de la Galette, painted in 1876. It depicts the open courtyard of a dance hall in Paris which normally hosted working-class citizens. For the sake of this painting, Renoir substituted his artist friends and their models. They are smiling, relaxed, and attractive, in the "idyllic image of a carefree age of innocence, a kind of paradise." (Stokstad 1013) Although during the day they do not rely on the gas lights, this painting shows them interacting with the new technology in a very natural way. The gas lights even blend in to the scene, showing the smooth transition of this new technology in to bourgeois society.

(Click on the image for a close up section of the gas lights.)


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