View of the Town Hall in the XVIIIe century

View of the Town Hall in the XVIII<sup>e</sup> century

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Title: The Town Hall and the Place de Grève

Author : RAGUENET Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas (1715 - 1793)

Creation date : 1751

Date shown: 1751

Dimensions: Height 47 cm - Width 85.5 cm

Technique and other indications: oil on canvas

Storage location: Carnavalet Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © RMN - Grand Palais / Bulloz agency

Picture reference: 03-011152 / CARP0289

The Town Hall and the Place de Grève

© RMN - Grand Palais / Bulloz agency

Publication date: November 2015

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

Observe the capital

This view of the Place de Grève is dated and signed by the artist, under the cornice of the quay on the left of the canvas ("Raguenet 1751"). The author of this work, Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas Raguenet, continued his study of the neighborhood that year with a work centered on the first two rows of buildings parallel to the river, such as the corbelled building that corresponds to the famous cabaret In the Image of Notre-Dame. We owe him other representations of the Hôtel de Ville district, such as a view dated 1753 and another made in 1754, but reconstituting the configuration of the square during the feast celebrating the birth of Princess Marie-Thérèse, daughter of the dolphin, in 1746.

Born in 1715 in Paris, Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas Raguenet is the son of a furniture and works of art dealer. His attention to detail and the animation of his paintings recall the vedute Italian painters like Canaletto (1697-1768), in Venice, whose works are declined in engraved versions.

Image Analysis

An important place of supply

As often, Raguenet produces a painting where the front of the stage is occupied by the river. Here, the view was probably taken from the Ile de la Cité, in a building on rue Basse or rue d'Enfer, on the north arm of the Seine.

The gaze is captured by the white-yellow colored facades of the buildings, which punctuate the central part of the canvas. Two buildings stand out clearly from the others: the Town Hall, seat of municipal power, and the Saint-Jean-en-Grève church, identifiable by its two square towers, one of which is surmounted by a spire.

Place de Grève owes its name to the sandy surface sloping gently towards the Seine, separated from a large square by a small wall. It is a beaching port, intended for unloading boats carrying a variety of goods: charcoal, wine, lime, etc. Carts and carts then ensure their transport through the city.

Faithful to his attention to detail and the anecdote, Raguenet depicts furtive silhouettes of children and a guard who ensures the surveillance of this strategic space. The site extends to the east, upstream of the Seine, with the Port au Blé or Quai des Ormes, dedicated to the supply of cereal products.


The center of municipal life

With this painting, Raguenet is interested in a lively district of Paris. In front of the Town Hall, Place de Grève hosts many popular entertainments. The painter describes his bustle with the help of awnings and numerous extras. It celebrates the great moments in the life of the kingdom and various festivities, such as the traditional feast of Saint John. This site is also used for the staging of capital executions. On March 28, 1757, it was here that the servant Damiens was tortured for more than two hours. In 1766, Lally-Tollendal also died under the blows of his executioners, before the installation of a guillotine in 1792.

The Town Hall is located on the site of a house bought in the 14the century by the provost of merchants, Étienne Marcel, in order to assemble the representatives of the municipality. Most of the building is from the middle of the 17th centurye century: its facade, designed by the Italian architect Boccador, has a refined decor inspired by the Renaissance, with a series of niches, pilasters and columns, as well as a clock that displays 6.30 a.m. 6:30 p.m. if we are to believe the shadows cast by the houses. The whole is surmounted by an elegant multi-step lantern. Finally, the colonnaded building which extends the Town Hall to the north corresponds to the Saint-Esprit hospital. It was destroyed with the houses on the banks of the Seine at the beginning of the 19th century.e century, when the Town Hall was extended.

  • monuments
  • architecture
  • Paris
  • patrimony
  • city
  • Seine


BACKOUCHE Isabelle, The Trace of the River: the Seine and Paris (1750-1850), Paris, School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences, coll. “Civilizations and Societies” (no 101), 2000. CHAGNIOT Jean, New history of Paris. VIII: Paris in the 18th century, Paris, Association for the publication of a history of Paris, 1988, COURTIN Nicolas, Paris in the 18th century: between rococo fantasy and classical revival, Paris, Parigramme, 2013. GADY Alexandre, PÉROUSE DE MONTCLOS Jean-Marie (dir.), On the spirit of cities: Nancy and urban Europe in the Age of Enlightenment (1720-1770), cat. exp. (Nancy, 2005), Versailles, Artlys, 2005.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "View of the Town Hall in the XVIIIe century "

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