Built by architect Pierre Lescot in the 16th century for King Francois I (finished under King Henry II), the Salle des Cariatides is one of the oldest areas of the Louvre and a solid example of Renaissance architecture.
Originally conceived to serve as a tribunal as well as the ball room, sculptor Jean Goujon was hired to deck it out. Instead of beer pong tables and neon Budweiser signs, Jean sculpted four statuesque carytides that served not only as giant sexy focal points, but to also support 5-10 musicians who would play above the crowd like a 16th center surround sound Bosé speaker system.
Like an Architectural Mullet, he made a point to physically separate the party side from the justice side with three steps that are no longer present. Given the important role to serve both the court of law and Friday Night Fever, this space was the heart of the Louvre Palace.
The room changed roles over the years, acting as both a marriage hall for a pre-King Henry IV when he married the daughter of King Henry II in 1572 and then his funeral parlors when he got shanked by François Ravaillac in 1610.
This was also where the Le Toucher des Ecrouelles ceremony would take place, when the king would use his divine touch to poke at whatever diseased person was presented to him, make the sign of the cross, and proclaim “The King touches you! God heals you! Where’s my hand sanitiser?”
But my most favorite relevation of this room is actually underneath it. During renovation work here in 1882, remains of a room from the original Louvre fortress were found and integrated into the museum, which you can visit.
Today this room is home to a few famous Greek Gods, Goddesses, and Mythological heros including the iconic 1st century AD Artemis with a Doe. Also known as Diana of Versailles, this Roman Goddess once graced the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles before being moved to the Louvre in 1798.
Fun Fact- A miniature replica of this statue was in the first class lounge of the Titanic. In 1986, Robert Ballard discovered and photographed the statue on the sea floor near the bow section of the wreck.
This painting, depicting a scene not so different from one we could find today in the same location, has a cheeky hidden context.
Clutch your pearls and grab your smelling salts respectable folks!
WE’RE TALKIN’ PROSTITUTION
A reproduction of the lost original and first shown in salons in the early 19th century, artist Louis Léopold Boilly barely escaped the Reign of Terror thanks to his habit of pushing the boundaries of propriety with his “morbidly obscene” yet realistic style of painting. He continued to scandalize the slightly less rigid standards of a post-Revolutionary Paris with this scene of a seemingly normal moment in the day to day Bourgoise life of Parisian men, women, and children at the Palais Royal.
However, on further inspection there are a few clues that show this is anything but an appropriate family afternoon outing.
To start, we got a few ladies of leisure, who can be identified by their scandalously bare arms, naked ankles, and flimsy dresses. Accompanying them are upper middle class men whose reputations are high enough to afford a little afternoon delight without risking their honor or position.
On the far left, there seems to be a minor dispute. Monsieur clutches the railing, perhaps he feels the price tag of this ménage à trois is too high. Beside them we see the round rump of a girl lifting her skirts, probably giving potential buyers a taste of the goods before they commit to buy. The woman above her seems to say “for fecks sake Constance, you are giving it all away! I can see the outline of your knee through those five layers of petticoats!”
To the right, a satisfied customer grasps the waist of a visibly annoyed lady, who is probably thinking “Hell no we will not be Facebook friends. Pay up and back off, I got things to do.”
Moving along, a women is batting her eyes at potential customers, maybe trying to sweeten the deal. “You want me to put that cane up your bum? Ok but there’s a 15% added charge for sodomy”. A child looks up beside her, is it a decoy to make this scene more PG?
On the far right we have a Mademoiselle stroking a dog in a basket, held by a man who appears to be translating for his turbaned master who stands behind them looking on. The woman between them is the Pimp; her arms around them both while negotiating the price.
The garden and galleries of the Palais Royal were well known for their more libertine activities, and this was a popular hotspot for working ladies of all classes who came here to “faire leur palais”. This was even where pre-Emperor Napoleon picked up a lady who he lost his V-card with! (see related post below!)
As many as 600-800 women lived and worked at the Palais Royal until Louis-Philippe forbid prostitution there in 1830.
How to train for a marathon while undertaking a quest to uncover a forgotten mosiac
RECAP: I’ve just found the contact for the man incharge of the Joan of Arc Association and he’s asked me to send him an email detailing why I want to see the mosiac. I write up a lengthy explaination and he responds within a day. It turns out the mosaic was moved after renovations at the school (it would have been destroyed otherwise, Yikes!) to the entryway at 8 rue Vavin in the 6th, the building that is currently the headquarters for “The Rights for the Ancient Religious Combatants” and a friend to the JOA Association.
Surprisingly, Pierre senses my desperation and gives me the code for the door so I can visit the mosaic when I want. (I like Pierre a lot already. I bet he would be a good partner in crime to solve HISTORY MYSTERIES) He sends me attachments of the JOA Association activities and I’m impressed. They meet several times a year to walk the same route JOA took when she was here in 1429. The mosaic was also recently blessed by a priest. So I go to 8 bis rue Vavin and I’m nervously sweating. What’s the next step if it’s not here? I’ve had enough of waiting outside doors for nothing damnit!
I enter the code Pierre gave me and the door effortlessly opens. And there it is. The mosaic of Joan of Arc. I found it. I SOLVED A PARIS HISTORY MYSTERY THAT NO ONE EVEN KNEW EXISTED.
The ironic thing was that after all these trips to the 1st arrondissement waiting outside that door, harassing people living there, and pissing off a high school door guard- the mosaic was literally like 600 meters from my apartment the whole time. I let myself study it awhile before I took pictures. I got close to it, I touched it. I briefly humped it. It was bigger than I imagined. I looked at Joan and I tried to picture myself in her boots, standing before Paris, wanting so badly to take it back from the English. Motivated by God yet surrounded by death, how did she find the strength?
I was disappointed to see she was in a dress (one of the reasons she was executed was for cross dressing. At her trial shd explained that she wore male clothing so that she could wear armor to fight and also to deter men from attempting to rape her) but then again, the mosaic is based upon the medieval manuscripts of Martial d’Auvergne written in 1484 entitled “Vigiles du Roi Charles VII”.
I took a few pictures and I turned around to leave. I looked back one more time at Joan. I found her and I felt lighter. No angels appeared at my shoulder to fist pump me, but I had the impression they were smiling at me from above.
If you haven’t read PART 1 or 2, cease reading! Go back and catch up before continuing….
RECAP! I’ve encountered a dead end on the first step of my hunt for the mythical mosaic of Joan of Arc attempting to breech the walls of Paris before she got kebab’d by a crossbow. AAAIIIEEE!
The mosaic depicted in the photo which I found from some random website I stumbled across is gone. That means I have a HISTORY MYSTERY to solve. And being the stubborn SOB that I am, I’m ready to do a little sleuthing. But where do I start?
1. Am I in the right place? I compare the printout from the website to the courtyard in front of me. It’s been updated for sure, but no doubt about it- this is the place. Again I go back and I wait outside the locked entry, hoping a resident will either come or go, and tell me where I can find the mosaic. This is not as easy nor as quick as I hoped. I wait about 30 minutes, springing myself upon the first 2 people that enter the door. Neither of them have ever seen the mosaic and are visibly disturbed at the desperation of the sweaty crazy lady in their courtyard until I show them the printout.
The online website paris-autrement.paris where I first found this mosaic was dated the 29th of January 2013 so it was removed sometime between then and now; in this time span of 7 years, SOMEONE must know what happened right? These people don’t and I’m disappointed that they don’t even really seem to care. While I didn’t find what I was looking for, I’m still tickled to be at the very spot where the Badass/Saintly Joan of Arc was injured during her mission from God. Could it be that I am on a mission from God as well?
3. I go to the creators of the mosaic itself in 1987, the High School J .B .Poquelin, which is the building located on the other side of the courtyard, and in fact, it appears that their cafeteria is the window behind the dumpsters. They had a fricken INAUGURATION CEREMONY with the goddamn mayor, someone in this school must have some idea to where it has gone in the past 7 years since the website took the picture right? So I go to the high school. I ring for the guardian (the school doorman) and immediately start out telling them I am a journalist (of Facebook but I left that out) and I’m investigating a mosaic of Joan of Arc that has gone missing from the courtyard of the building on the other side. You know, the one that this very school had the idea to make some 20 years prior. Surely they know of it right? No, they don’t. I show them the article and the photos. The guardian is not enthusiastic to help me. I ask to speak to someone, anyone, a teacher perhaps, one that has been there a few years- but I am shot down. The guardian sighs like he encounters HISTORY MYSTERIES all the time, and tells me to try going to city hall of the 1st arrondissement.
4. I go to city hall and I explain the situation. (Still going with the fake journalist theme) They make copies of the printouts I have of the website explaining the mosaic and pictures of the courtyard. They ask for my business card. This journalist doesn’t have one. They tell me they will get back to me.
5. I make business cards with my information. Instead of journalist, I am now a professional amateur historian.
6. I try to make better use of my time and multi task training for a half marathon and solving HISTORY MYSTERIES at the same time. I decide to stalk the inhabitants again at 15 rue de Richeleau and run there, again waiting outside the entrance around 18H. No one comes. I ask a security guy working the hotel next door if he has ever heard or seen this mosaic. He has no idea what I’m talking about and doesn’t seem to know who Joan of Arc even is.
7. I go back to the school; insisting that I speak with someone. They tell me to leave. So I go back to the city hall. It’s been a month since I went there and no one has responded. (This is normal in Paris. I ask “isn’t there someone like in charge of all things history in this arrondissement? No?” They tell me no one knows of any mosaic. The receptionist sadly tells me it was probably destroyed. I don’t believe her. I continue with my pursuits.
8. I run back to 15 rue de Richeleau during marathon training and FINALLY I have some answers. A resident of the building seems put off when I approach her dripping in sweat and smelling of desperation but she lights up when I show her the mosaic printouts and ask if she knows where it is. She says that the mosaic was taken down when the cafeteria of the high school was renovated a year or two ago. She thinks the Association of Joan of Arc currently has it.9. The Association of Joan of Arc! Well eat my face and call me Jeffrey Dahmer, there’s a JOA ASSOCIATION! I look up the website and find their hours. I go way up to Morodor/northern Paris and am disappointed to see a building that is under heavy construction and clearly not currently the place for the official JOA fanclub. I call the number listed on the website.
10. Monsieur Pierre Maire responds to my call. I tell him I am in front of the JOA Association address, but it looks like nobody’s there. He confirms that they are no longer at that address. I explain my situation and ask if he knows where the mosaic is. He does and tells me that he will send me a picture. I say NOPE I want to see it in real life. He asks me to send him an email explaining everything again and that he will get back to me. And here is where I’ll insert a cliffhanger.
Does she find the mosaic? Does it still exist? Was she arrested for Loitering/Harassment?
This may not be one of those juicy, significantly historical landmarks in Paris, but the history is no less dear. This miniscule former antique shop located just off the Rue Saint Honoré and nestled into a 17th century church first opened as a hair salon in 1630 (probably specializing in Sword Bowl Cuts) before succumbing to the antiques trade in 1638 (imagine antiquing in the 17th century).
The building was absorbed into the église Saint Roch when construction started up and around it in 1653. For the next 370 some years, it was business as usual in this TINY boutique, which most recently was owned by a certain Roger, who sold his eclectic collection of religious trinkets, vintage photos, and even fresh eggs.
Lacking space (I’ve seen bigger walk-in closets) but not creativity, the 16th century stone staircase was even used as functional selling space. How I would have loved to rummage through his shop! Unfortunately, Roger closed his doors sometime around 2016 and moved back to his home town. I read about it years ago online somewhere and I could kick myself today for not going in when I first stopped by to see the staircase years ago. I think my excuse was that there were a few people already in there at the time, probably bringing the store a few people past capacity! When I researched this last year, I passed by to see what was occupying this prime real estate space and was saddened to see it replaced by yet another, one in a million-Parisian concept stores- which among other cute, but unpractical things; sells bags, specifically for your passport.
And I have nothing against people that chose to pay a lower middle class ransom for fashionable paper bag dresses, but did they really have to erase the antiques sign and “house founded in 1638” store front? C’MON!