International Exposition of Paris 1867

Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts

April 1, 1867 - November 3, 1867

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Street of Paris

Street of Paris at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

This is the rue des merveilles: we spoke about it at the beginning; we will speak about it again; the subject is inexhaustible. It forms the main thoroughfare of the small axis, on the French side, between the fourth and fifth sectors.

Entering through the central garden, opposite the pavilion of the mints, we first enter a salon that could be called the salon of Napoleon I, because his busts of all ages and sizes form the main ornament. In the centre is a beautiful ornamented statue of the legislator of the codes, which we shall be obliged to reproduce and interpret, because of the importance of the subject and the work. By some gallant anachronism a remarkable statue of Miss Mars has crept in, which is also worth reproducing.

The four walls of the salon are occupied by the marble tarsia paintings of Baron de Triquetti. One cannot deny this curious work the merit of novelty. Nothing is new in the details; they are mosaics in design: everything is original in the whole. These marble inlaid pictures were commissioned by Queen Victoria for the tomb of Prince Albert; they will not be the least beautiful ornament.

Opposite us is the clock of M. Paul Garnier, shown in our overall drawing, as a landmark. We would like to be able to describe its ingenious mechanism; time is short, let us pass.

To the right and left of the clock is the music and piano gallery. In spite of the noise made elsewhere, this is where the real dilettanti flock, provided that a talented artist is experimenting with the keyboard.

Let us move on: we are in the presence of Mr Charles Lepec's showcase. It is a collection of art enamels, as many masterpieces. One can discuss the more or less tasteful way in which these enamels were made, but the beauty of the work is incomparable. Never has anything better been done in the past. It is an honour for France to produce such beautiful things, nowadays when there are no more merchant-kings to inspire them and pay them what they are worth.

We are talking about marvels! Here on the right are the imperial factories of Sèvres, Gobelins and Beauvais. The inimitable pencil of M. Lancelot will reproduce them for you, dear reader, as he has already reproduced the resplendent exhibition of Baccarat, which is on the left. I do not want to take away from one of my collaborators the proud pleasure of telling you about Sèvres, the Gobelins and Beauvais.

Between these two exhibitions, incomparable in every way, we find, in profile on the street, the Saint-Gobain mirrors, one with tain, the other without tain.

We have said that the past had nothing more perfect to oppose us as work than the artistic enamels of Mr. Ch. Lepec; we can add that the windows of Venice, whose greenish tints and deep bevels are admired, have nothing comparable to the windows of Saint-Gobain. Is there a single palace in Venice which is occupied from top to bottom by a single glass at a height of almost 7 metres? Is there a single Lombardy villa with a bay wide enough and high enough, opening onto fairy-tale parks, that a Saint-Gobain glass cannot make transparent, by forming an invisible barrier to the outside air? At the entrance to the vestibule, did the deceived eyes see the obstacle that the Saint-Gobain glass opposed to the passage from one aisle to the other?


Perhaps we will not have another opportunity to talk about Saint-Gobain: let us take advantage of this one.

The establishment of Saint-Gobain goes back a long way. It is the work of Colbert, who founded the royal ice factory in 1665. This Colbert, although old, was good: at the same time as Saint-Gobain, he founded the Academy of Sciences, another establishment which did not lack brilliance. I do not believe that Colbert's famous ordinances are entirely consistent with the principles of free trade; however, free trade has not yet entirely replaced them.

In any case, Saint-Gobain has always benefited from its cousinhood with the Academy of Sciences; and we know of no establishment that has left the door open to all progress more than this one.

In 1845, at the Vienna Exhibition, it was considered a wonder that a Bohemian glassworks had exhibited a blown glass 2.16 m high and 1.10 m wide, which had required the handling of a glazed mass of more than one hundred kilograms.
Here are the dimensions of the mirrors that Saint-Gobain exhibits today at the Champ de Mars:
Coming from Surface area.
Saint-Gobain 1 glass in white of 5m93 X 3m64 21m58
- 1 - - 5m88 X 3m60 21m17
Girey . 1 - 6m56 X 3m25 21m19
Saint-Gobain 1 tinned glass of 5m90 X 3m68 21m71
- 1 - - 5m01 X 3™60 18m04

What do you think of these dimensions?What is the giant palace whose glass of this area could not close the bays?

How did we manage to make glass so ductile, keeping it spotlessly pure and flawlessly transparent? I told you that Saint-Gobain was held at the same baptismal font as the Academy of Sciences: it therefore took advantage of all the privileges of this kinship. First of all, mechanics was put in requisition for the casting and rolling of glass; at the same time, chemistry was used to purify the glass by using sodium sulphate. In addition, an invention by Messrs. Siémens, justly rewarded in 1867, has made it possible to substitute the gas and regenerated heat furnace for coal and wood for casting. And at the same time as the mechanical and chemical operations employed in the treatment of glass were being perfected, a means was found of substituting silver for mercury in tinning.

For those who would like more information than I can provide here, I recommend reading a very interesting book by Mr. A. Cochin, of the Institute, on the Saint-Gobain factory from its foundation in 1665 to 1865. It shows how this model establishment grew and improved, and how it spread its branches to Chauny, Girey, and as far as Manheim in Germany.

As it perfected its means of production, Saint-Gobain improved the condition of its workers. And if we were not afraid of giving the special jury for the new order of awards remorse, we would show what Saint-Gobain has done to develop good harmony between those who work and those who make work.

All I wanted to do here was to bow to the beautiful products exhibited by this establishment.

There are other subjects that call for our attention.

Let us move on. Before Mr. Lepec's showcase, we come across the showcase of Mr. Rudolphi. This exhibitor has made a considerable effort to go back to the past in terms of artistic jewellery. The effort is there; the triumph not yet.

After the central showcase of Mr. Ch. Lepec, we find the coral showcase of Mr. Her-bet. I don't know if Mr. Herbet was inspired by the Neapolitan art of setting corals, but he has well disguised his apprenticeship; in any case, we did not know that a coral ornament could reach the degree of charm that he has brought it to.

Aluminium is a brand new metal, - out of the ground, so to speak. Unlike gold, which is distinguished by its heaviness as well as its purity, aluminium is distinguished by its lightness. Imagine that an actress, who had to wear a full suit of armour on stage, probably in a play based on the Tasso, had given up her role when an aluminium suit of armour was brought to her, weighing less than ten pounds. Aluminium is cold to the eye; but it lends itself to everything, to jewellery, to monstrances, to all the motifs of art and ornament. Mr. Paul Morin has proved it well in the two shop windows he occupies in the middle of the Rue de Paris.

The gunsmiths' exhibition is on the right. If you wish to hear about the Chassepot rifle and the havoc it is wreaking, you must enter there: we will tell you about it another day.

I prefer to go through the double salon of the Lyon silks, which is opposite. But, here again, I come across a reserved subject, and one that cannot be tackled with the current of the pen.

The existence of Lyon as a city has become a serious problem. The work of silk has, so to speak, been extravasated into the countryside. The Lyonnais worker proper, the canut, is obliged to pay more for everything than his rustic competitor. He pays a tithe to the octroi; his wife and children are obliged to be well dressed. He himself cannot, after his day's work, do without distractions. He goes to bed exhausted, and consequently rises late; whereas the country weaver is up at five in the morning, perfectly fit, having gone to bed at dusk. His children and wife are barely clothed: the absence of distractions suppresses expenditure, and thus provokes the offer of cheap labour.

It is true that, in the absence of plain cloth, the city worker is left with wrought and brocaded cloth, the rich silks. But the fashionable silk and brocaded silk have gone out of fashion, being too expensive; and the foreigner, following the example of Paris, sacrifices to the ready-made. The costs of a loom assembly are, moreover, considerable, and do not vary, while the resources of the order decrease. This is, I dare say, a situation full of anguish for the worker in Lyon.
In the current which is dragging him down, there is only one branch of salvation left to him: it is the shaping of furnishing fabrics. There, he is without rival, as long as luxury continues; and as he trains apprentices for this work, which is essentially professional, this is a resource for him.

But what! fortunes are crumbling; and from furnishings in damask silk, one passes with crumbling to the painted cottons of Mulhouse, almost as resplendent as silk, more quickly faded, no doubt, but much less costly to acquire first.

It is therefore not without a certain tightness of heart that we admire all the marvels lavished by the industry of Lyon! What!" I said to myself, "this magnificent art of Lyonnais weaving, which, in order to be brought to the point of perfection where we see it, has required the efforts of the genius of mechanics and design through so many generations who have passed on the secret, what! all this is going to collapse under the fatal level of time! Is it possible? and can no human intervention save this compromised industry, once and still today the glory of France?

To insist on this painful point would take me too far. I prefer to move on to the industries in progress: and I arrive at the gallery of raw materials, where the3 wrought metals are to be found on the right and left. Here I am again in an area where one of our collaborators, Mr. Victor Meunier, has hunted before me. But never mind! Let us at least glean, since the harvest is done. It is a brand new art to cast iron in a single jet and without retouching, as they say, to make it suitable for monumental works, such as statues, fountains, pediments, etc. In this art, M. Zégut (de Tusey), whom I find on my way, although I do not know him otherwise, seems to me to be a master; and it does not seem to me that he has been given the reward he deserved. I would like to see him cast the Pieta, the sculptural group by M. Dupré of Florence, which won the grand prize: he would reproduce this remarkable work in as many copies as there are churches in France, and almost at the material price of casting. Note that cast iron can be painted, as Greek sculptors once painted their marble statues.

M. Zégut, I am told, is a man as modest as he is deserving: he has the double honour of having made a factory prosper, and of having raised another which was falling. May the Moselle department, where the iron industry is so active, console itself for not having received a gold medal, since its most prominent representative only obtained a silver medal.

In front of us, at the end of the rue de Paris, in the middle of a gallery of 3 machines, is a monumental organ, fortunately quieter than the American pianos, and which we have reproduced in drawing in our 7th issue.

We have hardly made more than a topographical review along this marvellous street of Paris. We have not even been complete as a nomenclature, since we have forgotten to mention, opposite the silks of Lyon, the admirable class of goldsmiths, jewellers and jewellery makers, where no one can dispute our superiority, with artists such as Messrs Christofle, Froment-Meurice, Odiot, Beaugrand, Massin, Rouvenat, Lepec, Duron, Veyrat and the others. Benvenuto Cellini himself, this master of all the arts, would applaud this assemblage of masterpieces of all kinds. It is especially in the street of Paris that one understands in a clear and unmistakable way that France is still the polite nation par excellence, since its superiority shines out above all in things of art and taste, and that the masters of all elegance are gathered here.

And we have not been able to speak either of all the ravishing tapestries which serve, so to speak, as a frame for the Baccarat crystal works. We would have to be even more ecstatic, and go one step further out of our way, to the gallery of bronzes, another undisputed superiority that we claim for France. The bronziers were disturbed by the strike at the very moment of their exhibition: what would it be, if they had not been disturbed, since the strike did not make any noticeable gap?

If we do not insist on so many remarkable objects that we have just mentioned in passing, it is because we have already spoken of some of them, and that we intend to speak of others. This is only a general review, a methodical general indication.

It is a mine that I am opening before my collaborators, and that I am leaving to them.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée