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Picturing a World

At the Florist

Before I saw Béraud’s Promenade, featured in the last post, I had seen Hassam’s Florist, which illustrates the custom of being accompanied by a uniformed maid when out and about in Paris (very handy for having someone to carry purchases as well as to announce respectability). Countess Marie Bashkirtseff and other privileged students at the Académie Julian were escorted to class by a maid. For Jeanette and other foreign students, however, such close chaperonage was unnecessary. The streets of Paris were safe and American girls were notable to Europeans for their independence. Read More 
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Showboat

When Edward tells Cornelia Renick about taking Jeanette and Effie to the Cirque Fernando, they are reminded of a childhood escapade when they watched horses perform aboard a showboat on the Ohio River. In a slightly longer draft of this passage, I specified that they kept watch over the building of Spaulding and Rogers' spectacular Floating Circus Palace, which seated 3,400 and was launched in Cincinnati in 1851 when they would have been about ten or eleven years old. As far as I'm concerned, the escapade happened.  Read More 
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Cirque Fernando

After their successful outing to the World's Fair, Edward takes Jeanette and Effie to the Cirque Fernando (later the Cirque Medrano), which featured horseback riders, clowns, and acrobats in a wooden hippodrome on Montmartre, built like a giant circus tent. Degas' painting of Mlle La La, hanging from a trapeze by her teeth, led me to have her perform that night. Later in the novel, my characters see the painting itself at the 4th Impressionist show. For Toulouse-Lautrec's depiction of the ringmaster and a rider, click here.

For a spring 2013 exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library centered on this picture, click hereRead More 
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World's Fair (IV): Merlin

Burne-Jones's Merlin was, in fact, shown at the Paris World's Fair of 1878. It played perfectly into my wish to touch obliquely on the topic of an older man's infatuation with a younger woman while dramatizing only the barest beginnings of Edward and Jeanette's romance.

To my mind, Burne-Jones is a strange artist, often gorgeous and repellent simultaneously. Readers, how would you answer Jeanette's question in the novel: Is this painting wonderful or ghastly? Read More 
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World's Fair (III): Panoramas

This map is very similar to the one in my great-grandfather's guidebook. At the time, artists also produced ærial panoramic views of the fairgrounds, which included the vast Great Exhibition Hall on the Left Bank of the Seine and the Palace of the Trocadero on the Right Bank. For one of the best, click here and be sure to click on the panorama to reach the highest resolution.

The page includes other images of the fair, including a photograph of the rhinoceros that pleased Edward so much and that Jeanette later used for a Peregrine Partout cartoon. Read More 
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World's Fair (II): Prince of Wales

The use of plate glass for such things as ceilings and display windows was an innovation of the 19th Century. The way that glass is both transparent and a barrier between inside and out was, furthermore, something that people noticed. Outside, the Great Exhibition Hall reflected the sky in ever-changing movements of color and light. Inside, on bright days, the brilliance of the natural sunlight it transmitted had to be controlled by movable screens. Read More 
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Chanteuse

The outdoor Ambassadeurs, where Edward joins the other Murers, was famous for more than its lights among the trees. Singers, comedians, and acrobats performed. The female singers who were its most important stars were handsomely costumed, their repertoire often more popular than refined. You can see the crowd in the general admission seats on the left. In the novel, the Murers sit at one of the tables available at a higher charge. Carl dismisses the pretty girls sitting on the stage as unable to hold a girl at the Renicks' party, but you can see them for yourself here and hereRead More 
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Ambassadeurs in the Champs-Élysées

After the Renicks' dinner party, Edward escorts Jeanette and Effie home then joins the rest of his family at a café-chansant, Les Ambassadeurs. In Renoir's Champs-Élysées, it is the building on the right. It was surrounded by its own gardens where gaslights on single posts and on tiers among the trees were part of the magical atmosphere. Acts were performed on an elaborate outdoor stage with the additional trees of the park deepening the leafy background. Read More 
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Inside the Renicks' House

The delicious Museé Jacquemart-André helped me invent the interior of the Renicks' house even if my fictional house is supposed to be older. Artist Nélie Jacquemart and her banker husband, Edouard André, built the mansion to display their art collection, which included many 18th C paintings, tapestries, and objects. To walk through it was to be in the house of connoisseurs with tastes similar to Marius Renick's. Gay's Grand Salon suggests why, after entering the Renicks' house, Edward finds that from now on he must expand his imagination for aristocratic scenes when he reads Balzac. Read More 
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Ostrich at the Zoo

When Edward takes his nephew Eddie to the Parisian zoo, the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, they see an ostrich pulling a cart. Although I had read about the ostrich, I had never seen a picture of it until I ran across Abroad. Illustrated by Thomas Crane (1808–1859), father of the far more famous illustrator Walter Crane (1845–1915), it follows an English family across the Channel and through France. Abroad conveys how a visitor in a foreign country finds that everything looks new and different. Read More 
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