Images of Paris are not only visual representations of the city,
but are also representations of political and cultural ideals
of the time. On this page you will find examples of how Parisians
viewed the city and its monuments, and
how they wanted others to see the city and its parts as well.
The representations produced throughout the 19th century reflect
the change in the point of view of the artists from rational to
romantic and political to economic.
Images: Representing Paris
Here are two contemporary images of Paris
from the 19th century that attempt to show Paris from a panoramic
view. However, they represent Paris very differently. Below is
a detailed analysis of both images.
Vue de Paris, Langlace,
Vue de Paris, M.
Both of these images depict the Paris landscape from a similar
point of view. The observer is positioned in the sky, looking
down on the landscape. These representations also view Paris as
if the observer is outside of the city and not located in the
actual space the is being shown. The reason for the point of view
in both images is so that the observer is in awe of the landscape.
The city expands and displays itself for those to see its grandeur.
However, there are very different motivations for each of these
images. The image on the left is a painting done around the time
of Haussmann's renovations of Paris. This painting represents
the Paris landscape as being conjoined with the rural suburbs
around the city (Gaillard, 113). The lush color of the grassy
hills and valleys that lie around the city present the city as
being close to nature. The actual city itself is presented in
a humble fashion. The sun does not shine brightly on the buildings
of the city and the buildings that are shown are painted in muted
colors so that they blend into the rustic landscape. This idea
of the existence of nature with the modern city is a Romantic
idea that one can escape to be one with nature. With this representation
of nature being "tres proche" or very close to and almost
part of the Paris landscape reflects these Romantic ideas of the
The drawing on the right is taken from the Paris guide that was
published in 1867. This tourist guide depicts the landscape, not
as being part of nature, but rather as being an accessible and
modern city. The artist has decided to view the city from the
Seine river as it flows into the city. The sun casts its rays
over the city consisting of buildings, boats and bridges. There
are in fact so many buildings that they are indistinguishable
from one another. This is obviously depicting Paris as a modern,
innovative city with many places to go and many things to see.
So many things to see that this overall view is not enough for
the viewer to see all the splendors of the city. Tourist who would
view this drawing would be anxious to continue on the journey
The main difference between these representations of Paris is
how the artist presents the city to the viewer. The painting by
Langlace presents an earthy and nostalgic view of the city. The
drawing by Lalanne presents Paris as an enlightened, modern city
with many points of interest. However there are some similarities.
The only distinguishable building that is present in both of these
images is the Pantheon or the Church of Ste. Genevieve. This structure
went through many restorations throughout the end of the 18th
century into the first half of the 19th century. All of the changes
to the building represented political changes at the time. For
example, during the revolution of 1789, the church was decorated
with philosophical images, and by 1826 these images were replaced
with images of Catholic worship (Galignani, 436). The inclusion
of the church in both of these images, represents the importance
of the structure throughout times of political
and social change.
Both of these images represent the rising of the bourgeoisie
class at the middle of the 19th century. The romantic views of
nature and the progressive views of the modern city were contemporary
ideas of the rising bourgeoisie. The idea that one could enjoy
the conveniences of a modern city while being able to escape from
it all in the rural suburbs was just one of the ideals of the
Representations of Landmarks
Le Pantheon, M.
E. Vernier, 1867
Anton Melbye, 1848
These images are two differing views of the famed Pantheon in
Paris. Modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, this church is one
of the most popular in Paris. It holds the remains of many of
France's distinguished citizens including Victor Hugo. The image
on the left is a drawing that was found in the Paris Guide that
was published in 1867, while the image on the right is a daguerreotype
of the church from 1848.
The drawing does not even focus on the church. The foreground
is filled with domestic structures that seem to lie in the banlieue
or suburbs of the city. Only the dome of the church is visible
in the background. This tourist view of the church emphasizes
the life of the lower, suburban class that was idealized as being
pure. The artist is trying to show the harmony between city and
suburb through his depiction of a religious structure.
The daguerreotype on the right portrays the church as it might
have actually looked in the mid 1800s. Melbye's image does not
dramatize the structure by including visions of the poor. This
can be described as a realist view of the Pantheon.
Both of these images reveal changing ideals of the city. Since
the tour guide was published well after the invention of daguerreotypes,
why didn't the editors of the guide use these kinds of images
instead of drawings. In the 1860s after Baron
Haussmann's renovation of the city, Paris wanted to display
its splendor in both modernization and naturalism. The drawing
by Vernier achieves both of these goals.