A print from around 1882 depicting a futuristic view of air travel over Paris as people leave the opera.
Many types of aircraft are shown including flying buses, limousines and, what are presumably, police vehicles.
On the latter are mounted strangely un-futuristic sword-carrying officers that wouldn’t seem out of place on the Opera’s stage itself.
As far as the get-up of the normal opera-going folk, things don’t seem to have progressed too radically, though many of the men seem to be sporting the same bizarre military-esque hat.
To the left of the scene, amongst the flying vehicles, we can see a restaurant, which like the Opera building itself, is elevated to an enormous height above the vaguely discernible city below.
In the distance we can make out the Eiffel Tower, which seems to have some enormous structure emerging from its top about which buzz more flying vehicles.
One other interesting thing to note is that women can be seen driving their own aircraft.
The print is the creation of the French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist, and all around futurologist,
Albert Robida. Editor and publisher of La Caricature magazine for 12 years, Robida also wrote an an acclaimed trilogy of futuristic novels imagining what life would be like in the 20th century.
He foretells many inventions in his writings, including the “Téléphonoscope”: a flat screen television display that delivered the latest news 24-hours a day, the latest plays, courses, and teleconferences.
A Valentine’s gift to top all Valentine’s gifts – the Petit Livre d’Amour (Little Book of Love) was an ornate bespoke book given by the 16th-century Lyon-born poet Pierre Salas to his then lover and future wife Marguerite Bullioud.
It measures just 5 by 3.7 inches, hand-written by Salas with gold ink and beautifully illuminated by an artist identified as the “Master of the Chronique scandaleuseas”.
The work begins with a few pages of prose describing the relationship between the author and the woman he loves before then presenting the rest of the book, 12 “iconologues”, a combination of prose and poetry on the left-hand page – including the initials M, for Marguerite and P, for Pierre, scattered about in various forms – and on the right-hand page a corresponding picture.
Five of these relate to love, the others to more moral topics, but all turning away from a sickly-sweet tone, instead portraying a more realistic picture of love.
A spiral staircase in the Denfert-Rochereau section of the catacombs (all photographs by the author unless indicated)
Perhaps the most well-known “ruin” in Paris is the catacombs, a network of quarries that span around 200 miles under the city (in fact Parisians have been known to compare their city to a holey cheese there are so many tunnels dug out under the surface).
A small portion of the catacombs were renovated and turned into ossuaries when the original resting places for the bodies were no longer viable, giving it the reputation of being one of the world’s largest graves.
Since 1874, a section has been open on a regular basis for tourists. However, what a lot of tourists don’t realize is that this is only a small segment of the mass network of tunnels.
Upon entering the ossuaries, you are faced with this warning: “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la Mort” (“Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death”), whereupon you are met with the first of the remains of the six million people that are buried within the catacombs.
Le Carrefour des Morts (“The Crossroad of Death”), a part of the catacombs not open to the public (photograph by Adam Slater)
As a popular tourist attraction, the catacombs now often have an enormous queue snaking around the block, thus it is always advisable to be early and expect a wait, and dress in layers — it can be extremely cold or hot outside, but the catacombs maintain a fairly consistent temperature once you enter the quarry tunnels.
For the more daring, the museum is only the start of your potential journey. The tunnels extend far beyond what is available to see here, but nonetheless provides a fascinating visit. Though you might just find yourself bending the parameters of “easily accessible” and joining the cataphiles in order to seek out the rest.
Images have long provided a means of protesting political regimes bent on censoring language. In the 1830s a band of French caricaturists, led by Charles Philipon, weaponized the innocent image of a pear to criticize the corrupt and repressive policies of King Louis-Philippe (see Front Image).
Patricia Mainardi investigates the history of this early 19th-century meme.
La Caricature, 9 January 1834, no. 349.
“Around this damnable tyrannical pear there gathered a great howling mob of patriots. There was such fury and incredible unity in their stubborn demand for justice that when we leaf through old humor journals today, we find it a subject of enormous astonishment that such unrelenting warfare could continue for years.” — Charles Baudelaire,
“Wherever open speech is prohibited, symbols and allusions abound. The historian Peter Gay lamented that in our positivist age, this metaphoric language has waned because we now see in only one dimension, the literal and obvious one.
Gay traced the beginnings of this loss to the Enlightenment, beginning with the rise of science as a paradigm and the gradual eclipse of religion; an example would be the formerly near universal comprehension of calling someone “a good Samaritan”, a term that simultaneously invokes the present and a biblical past, enabling us to think on two parallel planes at once.
Caricature, with its mixture of word and image, the literal and the allusive, does this better than language alone, which has caused it to be highly regulated and often prosecuted by authoritarian regimes. Under one such authoritarian regime, nineteenth-century French caricaturists produced one of the most powerful political metaphors in modern history: the representation of King Louis-Philippe as a pear.
The era was, with apologies, “ripe” for this kind of messaging because caricature, imported to France from England during the revolutionary period of the late eighteenth century, was ideally suited to evade the draconian censorship laws instituted by the Bourbon Restoration of 1815. Censorship could occur in several intensifying degrees.
In France, censorship of images was always more severe than censorship of text because images were thought to have a more direct appeal to the lower classes whose literacy was limited. It was customarily exerted in one of two ways: normally, censorship was post-publication, meaning that if a text or image was judged offensive, it would be seized and the author, artist, and publisher tried, fined, and imprisoned. In periods of great instability, however, the more severe measure of prior censorship was instituted.
This meant that nothing, neither text nor image, could be published or even exposed to public view, unless it had first been submitted to government censors and approved by them. Not only artists, authors, and publishers could be held responsible, but even printers were liable and could lose the license that permitted them to work.
This is why so many publications (Diderot’s Encyclopédie, for example) falsely identified their origin as outside France — usually Switzerland, where laws were more liberal.
During the Restoration, artists created a metalanguage of symbols to evade censorship: censorship itself was personified as a large pair of scissors always on the attack, the clergy were represented as candle snuffers busily extinguishing the light of the Enlightenment, and the regime’s political figures as crayfish who knew only how to walk backwards.
In 1830, however, after the “Three Glorious Days” of the July Revolution, the absolutist legitimist monarchy was overthrown in favor of a new constitutional monarchy governed by what was called “The True Charter”.
Les Eyzies de Taynac is a pretty town in the commune of Dordogne in southwestern France, that at first glance, appears to be crushed under the cliff.
The town is littered with numerous grottos, caves and troglodyte dwellings whose history dates back to more than 28,000 years. I
t was here, in 1868, during the construction of a railroad, a rock dwelling was discovered that contained the skeletal remains of the first early Homo sapiens of the European Upper Paleolithic era – the Cro-Magnons.
The prehistoric caves around Les Eyzies contain some of the most significant archaeological finds of the Upper Paleolithic (from about 40,000 to 10,000 years ago) and Middle Paleolithic (200,000 to 40,000 years ago) periods, that include, apart from skeletons, tools, pendants and jewelry and extensive wall drawings. The area is visited by thousands of tourist every year.
Les Eyzies was at one time a small hamlet tied to the Lordship of Tayac.
During the 8th and 9th centuries it probably had quite a large population, as shown by the numerous troglodytic habitations and the presence of groups of buildings fortified against the Viking raiders.
The cliffs are riddled with elevated look-out posts know as cluzeaux aeriens, artificial chambers cut out of the limestone cliffs so high one wonders how anyone ever got up there.
There are scores of caves and grottos to visit in Les Eyzies, including numerous medieval fortresses built into the rocks, a fortified church and many museums. Les Eyzies contains some 150 prehistoric sites dating from the Paleolithic and about 25 decorated caves.
The Grotte de Font-de-Gaume, just outside of Les Eyzies, has over 200 paintings and engravings of bison, horses, mammoths, and reindeer, as well as a few stylized human figures.
The multi-colored paintings date from the Magdelenian era, about 17,000 years ago.
The Abri de Laugerie Basse is another rock shelter that was occupied over 17,000 years ago.
It is known for the large number of tools and artifacts that were discovered in place, including a sculpture of a horse and another of a female figure.
Then, there is Abri de Cro-Magnon itself where the famous discovery of the Cro-Magnons were made.
The shelter of the Cro-Magnon and several other sites, however, have been closed to the public because of preservation concern.
Graves at Fromelles, France following the infamous battle of July 1916. Photo: (Supplied: Chandler Collection)
This week marks 103 years since the World War I battles of Fromelles and Pozieres — two of the deadliest and most gruesome in Australia’s military history.
In an attempt to feint and distract German forces who were battling the French and British on the Somme in the south, Australian forces were sent into Fromelles, about 100 kilometres north, at 6:00pm on July 19, 1916.
It was Australia’s introduction to the Western Front — the main theatre of the war — after spending months fighting in Gallipoli, and the results were disastrous.
Robocop, tiny urban alleys, and gremlins are all just a part of the fascinating prop and miniature set collection held at the Musée Miniature et Cinéma.
Founded by miniature setting artist Dan Ohlmann, the museum holds over a thousand pieces of down-scaled locations such as a school room and a fully-furnished dining room which are so detailed that they could pass for their full-size inspirations.
The site also includes such tiny tchotchkes as carved matchsticks, chiseled egg shells, and micro-origami.
In addition to all of the tiny pieces of sculpture the museum’s other focus is on special effects and creatures from the movies.
In this section of the museum visitors can see props and costumes from such films as I, Robot, Stuart Little, and Hellboy.
Even with all of the micro amazements, the excitement the Musée Miniature et Cinéma is immense.
Delahaye Type 165: The Most Beautiful French Car of the 1930s
The Delahaye Type 165 is viewed by many as the most beautiful French car of the 1930s, only 5 of them were ever made with this one having been fatefully chosen by the French government to represent France at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Shortly after the car arrived at New York customs, Germany invaded Poland and set off World War II, thus the Delahaye became stranded in no-mans land where it sat for 8 long years before being acquired by a Beverly Hills car dealer for the staggering (at the time) sum of $12,000 USD.