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Picturing a World

Afoot in Paris

Jeanette walks to and from school every day, at first accompanied by Cousin Effie and eventually on her own with fellow students. I wanted to know how closely she would have been chaperoned. Besides reading social history, I took note of how women were depicted on the streets in paintings. Béraud’s two hatless, gloveless “promenaders” in their neat, black, similar costumes look to me more like shop assistants, out perhaps on an errand, than either fashionable Parisiénnes or girls of dubious virtue. Their chumminess may include an awareness of the man behind them, or it may simply be the giggling companionability of friends. In any case, they seem to illustrate the way a pair of art students might walk up the shop-filled Rue Vivienne—though Jeanette and her friends would unquestionably have worn hat and gloves. They wanted to be taken seriously as professionals and therefore (well, for the most part) observed the proprieties in dress.
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