A blog post, The Spectacle of Paris Streets, has just alerted me to a book I wish I had known about when I was researching Where the Light Falls: A Travers Paris par Crafty. For instance, I'd never thought of large trees being planted on a Parisian boulevard until I saw this image. It's the sort of sight that could cause a character to loiter, or spark a train of thought, or even somehow play into the action of a story. Or it could prompt an imaginative excursion: what if there were a world where a steampunk technology was used by trees to facilitate their own migration? The whole book is worth exploring.
Picturing a World
Okay, a follow-up to the follow-up. When I was looking at Šimon's prints of Paris, I chuckled over this one as an example of, what?—early Parisian "social distancing"? Notice that not only are the people in the picture widely spaced, but we're looking at them from waa-aaay across the street. Anyway, that set me thinking how much I dislike the phrase social distancing. It's so vague! Six feet apart is explicit and emphatic. Say it and mean it: the more we keep six feet apart now, the sooner we'll be filling up those empty streets again.
Yesterday, I was tempted to illustrate the post on Bookshop with an image of Paris booksellers along the Seine but couldn't think of a particular one, so I went with the organization's logo instead. But isn't this print by Tavik František Šimon a lovely follow-up? If my character-in-progress Mattie went to Paris in 1908, she would find such a scene, which would have little changed from when Edward browsed there in Where the Light Falls—and booksellers on the quai are still there, for that matter, in the real Paris, not fictional at all. Since it may be a while, however, before any of us are traveling much except in imagination, try browsing the graphic art of Tavik František Šimon as if you were at a print seller's stall.
Blog post alert: An illustrated Spitalsfield Life post on rediscovered dioramas of Petticoat Lane will delight anyone who loves scale models, dollhouses, miniatures, and such. They can also give valuable visual clues to historical fiction writers. Enjoy!
Blog alert: A post at Lines and Colors on Louis Béroud has images of copyists in the Louvre, scenes of Parisian life, and an anecdote about the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911.
When I wrote Where the Light Falls, I knew that Italians worked as bus conductors and artists' models in Paris, but nothing about them as sellers of plaster-cast images. Von Stetten's painting opens up a new topic for investigation, and just a few clicks have already landed me on an article about the plaster figure trade in London. More concrete detail for a story about the intersection of commerce and art!
For an etching of an itinerant plaster cast seller in London, click here.
Website tip: This Parisian street scene by Victor Gabriel Gilbert is part of February 1st Sotheby's auction. I wish I remembered more often to check auction house and gallery websites—they are such valuable resource for details of everyday life. Here, for instance, notice the bellows and the charcoal brazier on which the pots sit. Genre pictures can also raise questions about everyday life to follow up: What exactly is the woman on the right doing? And what is the green-stuff on the shelf under the Café au Lait sign?