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Picturing a World

Florist’s interior

It was partly paintings of outdoor markets and street-corner flower-sellers that inspired me to have Jeanette buy flowers from time to time in Where the Light Falls, but I sent Edward into an upscale Parisian florist’s shop. Although I knew they existed, I had never found a painting of one until I ran across this one this morning. Ladies buying hats, yes, but a florist, no. Judging by the women’s clothes and the automobile outside, this picture must date from the early 20th C—which will do for Mattie’s period!

The picture itself is worth studying for its inside-looking-out composition, the play of light on the table and floor, the use of the glass window to throw the customer’s figure into relief, the massing of color in the lower left versus the pale grays and whites in the upper right, the vertical door panels that set off the chauffeur (necessary male validation or mere tertiary focal point?). Art historians, social historians, and short-story writers would all find something different in the painting. Even the turn of the woman’s left foot and the position of her gloved hand might spark a comment or a thought!

French genre artist Victor Gabriel Gilbert (1847–1933) painted many scenes of outdoor Parisian flower sellers and markets. For a raft of them and his happy depictions of innocent children in everyday life, click here.

An illustrated article on a recent exhibition, Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade offers a quick glimpse at depictions ladies trying on hats in shops.
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