The Real Paris
A City Divided
Paris & Politics
Space & Money
As the bourgeoisie grew in power and influence,
and with the building boom of the
, the lines between bourgeois housing and proletariat housing
became much more distinct. This was because of speculation and rising
rent, which drove many workers out of the newer, nicer buildings.
The effects become a clear example of the bourgeoisification of
Early Parisian Homes:
The Place de Greve, as painted by Raguenet, 1750.
This is an example of the popular housing prevalent
in Paris in 1750. In these apartments, many families lived together,
generally with the poorer people living on the upper levels. The
picture itself is an almost nostalgic view of Parisian homes. The
colors used by the artist are bright, and there are people going
about their business. This was a symptom of the times: mixed housing
among the different classes prevented the buildings themselves from
becoming signifiers of social status. Instead, class was signified
by lifestyle and living conditions. The quote below describes a
lower-class family which could have been living in a building like
the one shown here.
A whole family occupies a single room, with
four bare walls, wretched beds without curtains, and kitchen utensils
rolling around with the chamber-pots. All the furniture together
is not worth twenty éues; and every three months
the inhabitants change their hole, because they are chased out for
failing to pay the rent. - Sebastien Mercier (as quoted in Roche,
|Typical Homes for the Wealthy:
This map, from 1836, shows the wide, tree-lined
boulevard, Boulevard des Capucines
which was typical of the boulevards built in the nineteenth century
(pointed out by the purple arrow). Also worth noting are the structures
of the city blocks (one example is shown in blue). The homes on
these blocks were very different from the apartments of the past,
offering the inhabitants spacious living quarters and gardens in
which to entertain guests. The rent on these apartments remained
high, however, and they remained in the hands of the upper classes.
1836 Map of Paris
Canella's Rue de Castiglione
The new homes which were built at this time are
those for which the streets of Paris have become famous. The immeubles
were long, straight blocks of single floor apartments with coordinated
facades, generally with the first floor devoted to shops.
Typical Homes for the Poor
This is a photograph of the Rue Champlain, taken
in 1865 by Charles Marville. It depicts the slum-like conditions
suffered by the poor -petty bourgeoisie and proletariat- of Paris.
Some features to be noted are the dirt roads (where almost all streets
in Paris were paved) and the dilapidated buildings in the foreground.
In the background, one can see the immeubles
the wealthier classes. This photograph was taken while Marville
was working for Baron Haussmann
the assignment to "photograph in such a way that Haussmann's
future accomplishments could be appreciated" (Rice 86).
|Homes in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
Victor Hugo's M. Gillenormand, a member of the
grand bourgeois, lived in the Marias, on Rue Des Filles de Calvaire,
No. 6. The following passage is a description of his home, complete
with bedroom, library, boudoir, and easily accessible gardens:
"an ancient and ample apartment on
the first story, between the street and the gardens, covered
to the ceiling with fine Gobelin and Beauvais tapestry representing
pastoral scenes; the subjects of the ceiling and the panels
were repeated in miniature upon the armchairs. He surrounded
his bed with a large screen with nine leaves varnished with
Coromandel lac. Long, full curtains hung at the windows, and
made great, magnificent broken folds. The garden, which was
immediately beneath his windows, was connected with the angle
between them by means of a staircase of twelve or fifteen
steps, which the old man ascended and descended very blithely.
In addition to a library adjoining his room, he had a boudoir
which he thought very much of, a gay retreat, hung with magnificent
straw-colour tapestry . . ." (Les Miserables,
Marius, Book II, ch 2).
As a Bohemian,
Marius lived in the Gorbeau tenement, in the southeast quadrant
of Paris. He paid 30 fancs per year for use of the room. Compare
the description of Marius' home with that of his grandfather, M.
"a wretched little room in the Gorbeau
tenement, with no fireplace, called a cabinet, in which there
was no more furniture than was indispensable. The furniture
was his own" (Les Miserables, Marius, Book V,
Unlike Gillenormand, Marius has very little furniture,
and does not own the single room that he lives in. Even the length
of the description is telling: Hugo is able to describe Marius'
room in one sentence, while it takes him a paragraph to describe
The contrast between bourgeoisie and proletariat housing is a sign
of the growing influence of the bourgeoisie. As the gap between
bourgeoisie and proletariat widened, it narrowed between aristocrats
and bourgeoisie. The aristocrats had lost much of their power during
the early nineteenth century, leaving room for the upper tiers of
the bourgeoisie to take charge.