Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Passagxxe Vivienne, part one

While I am editing incredibly poorly written essays on European railway networks (how did they get to be professors? when do I?), and hoping that eating chocolate with enormous quantities of Mirabellwasser does not seriously alter my ability to fix run-on sentences and MLA citation standards, I will also give you part one of an entry on the Passaxxge Vivienne, one of the poshest and best-preserved passages in Paris.
4, rue des Petits-Champs, 5, rue de la Banque, 6 rue Vivienne. 2e arrdt.

The rue Vivienne owes its name to an extremely wealthy banking family, les Vivien, who built the street in 1631 to connect to the Palais Royale area and to Louis XIII's court. In 1837, it was lengthened to join the rue Montmartre. In 1788, Sébastian Mercier wrote: "There is more money on the rue Vivienne than there is in the rest of Paris."

A notary named Maître Marchoux who was living in a hôtel at 6 rue Vivienne decided in 1823 to build a covered passage, to imitate the ones elsewhere that were already enjoying such success. (Those were the days, when you could be named "master," weren't they?). Marchoux bought the hôtel as well as a house in the middle whose garden faced onto the rue des Petits-Champs, giving him a section of turf in the shape of an L that linked the rue Vivienne, the rue des Petits-Champs, and the rue de la Banque where the large Banque de France is located. But Maître Marchoux still wasn't satisfied. This was the most luxurious quartier in Paris, after all -- so he wanted his passage to be the most gorgeous passage humanly possible.

Francois Jacques Delannoy, creator of the Banque de France, the Palais de Justice, and the pridon de Dijon, and one of the most brilliant architects of his era, was commissioned to rebuild the passage, and he did so with such success that its design is one of the most copied around Europe (in Nantes, Bordeaux, and St. Petersburg, among other places). Formed in the Empire school, Delannoy decorates the passage with pilasters, arcs, corniches, and various symbols of success (laurel wreaths, wheat, palms), richness (horns of plenty), and commerce (Mercury's cadeceus).

The passage was an immediate success. It was incredibly packed, to the point that contemporaries have left passionate descriptions of the difficulty they had in avoiding having an eye poked out or foot run over, as they shopped in the 70+ shops there. (Visitors to Paris unused to the modern crowds had an even harder time). There were luxury retailers, the restaurateur Grignon, several good cafes, merchants of fashion and novelties, and even a confectioner whose salesclerk, Mademoiselle Valérie, was so beautiful that she attracted crowds.

La Librairie Siroux installed itself there in 1828.

The abbé Gazzara opened a Cosmorama there in 1832, which presented the wonders of countries from the fours corners of the world, via magnifying mirrors.

Even the memorable Vidocq, the voleur-policier (thieving policeman), lived in the passage Vivienne in the 1840s, and there is a rumor that a secret underground passageway linked his part of it to the Palais Royale, to make it easier for him to spirit away his goods.

...tune in next time for Part Two of the Passagxxe Vivienne, where the fratricidal rivalry with the Passagxxe Colbert, the advent of prostitutes and a rough crowd, revival, decline, and its contemporary fortunes will all be discussed...


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6:00 PM  
Anonymous catarina miranda said...

hello! i'm looking for information about cosmoramas in the XIX century, and that's how i saw your site.
you write that "The abbé Gazzara opened a Cosmorama there [passage Vivienne] in 1832, which presented the wonders of countries from the fours corners of the world, via magnifying mirrors."
can i use this information? how do you want to be referenced? and can you tell me more about it?Thanks a lot, Catarina.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous SAS G. DeLannoy said...

Merci de citer un membre de cette l'illustre famille, des DeLannoy, seigneur de sa personne.
Seigneurie qu'aucun DeLannoy se doit d'abandonner, ci ce n'est au profit d'une noble corporation.
Ce que fit cet architecte.
More about : http://delannoy.blogspirit.com
SAS G.DeLannoy

5:27 AM  

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