Mapping Paris

Representations vs. Realities: Maps

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Welcome to the world of maps in 19th century Paris. Before reading this page it is important to remember that maps are not merely to-scale representations of a city's layout. Like all visual imagery, maps also contain information about the political objective of the creator of the map and visual images of social boundaries. Looking at different maps over a period time, for our view the 19th century, also helps in describing economic, social and political change.


Ideas about Social Geography

Below are two different representations of Paris. Hopefully they look very different to you. The image on the left looks like it is drawn to a larger scale than the image on the right. The buildings appear to be smaller and the streets are closer together. However, these images are from the same map that was made in 1836.

Maps shown above are portions from a 1836 Map of Paris, Courtesy of Yale University Map Collection and Frederick W. Musto, Curator

Economically, the city was divided horizontally, where the lower classes tended to live in the East and the upper classes tended to live in the West. Therefore this image comparison is a powerful representation of how class divisions were seen in the geography of the city.

The portion of the map on the left is taken from the seventh arrondissement in Paris, which is located in the northeast section of Paris. This portion of Paris was mainly populated by lower class residents. The streets are tiny compared to those of the image on the right, which is a portion of the map taken from the first arrondissement in the northwest section of Paris. With the rise of the bourgeoisie, the first arrondissement became a place of leisure and wealth in the mid-1800s. As one can see in the image of the first arrondissement, the streets are wider and there are also many gardens in the area including those of the Champs Elysees and of Tuileries Palace.

Ideals of Society in a MAP???

....Strangely enough it is true. Many mappers during this time period included on the map representations of different Parisian landmarks. For the most part the landmarks represented were historical, such as the Tuileries Palace. These images like many seen on the journey through the world of representations of Paris, depict changing social values.


Map of Paris, 1850, Courtesy of Yale University Map
Collection and Frederick W. Musto, Curator


Above is a map of Paris from 1850. The blue arrow indicates where the images of different landmarks were located on the map. The representations of landmarks were usually drawings that used the same tones as the map. These muted tones allow these images to actually become part of the map. Also it is important to note that these images were not only seen on the 1850 map that is shown above. In my research, three complete maps of the city, from the years 1815, 1836 and 1850 used this method of portraying important scenes of the city. Therefore it can be stated that this was a common practice on maps of the 19th century in France.

Below are details of these types of drawings of the Tuileries Palace. The two drawings are from two different maps, from the years 1815 and 1850 respectively.

From 1815 Map of Paris, Courtesy of Yale University Map Collection and Frederick W. Musto, Curator

From 1850 Map of Paris, Courtesy of Yale University Map Collection and Frederick W. Musto, Curator

Presented above are two map images of the Tuileries Palace. Both give detailed information about the landmark, but they approach the subject with two different ideals in mind.

For example, the drawing on the right is an image from an 1815 map. The building is presented as simply that: a building. No figures are represented here and the atmosphere is dull and strict as if it is an architectural drawing rather than a drawing of an actual historical location. The drawing on the right however, is presented from a very different perspective. The building is not view from its stark facade, but from a diagonal. Perhaps the most important difference is the gathering of Parisians around the building. The artist has also taken a considerable amount of time to depict the clothes and actions of the figures as well.

These small images give us a lot of information about the changing ideals of the city between 1815 and 1850. During this 35 year span, the Palace goes from being represented as an architectural and authoritative landmark to one of leisure and the bourgeoisie.

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