From the Place de Grève to the Place de l'Hotel de Ville

From the Place de Grève to the Place de l'Hotel de Ville

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  • Town Hall and Place de Grève.

    HOFFBAUER Théodore-Joseph-Hubert (1839 - 1922)

  • View of the Paris City Hall, taken from the square side.

    JANINET Jean-François (1752 - 1814)

  • Paris City Hall.

    BALDUS Edouard Denis (1813 - 1889)

Town Hall and Place de Grève.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

View of the Paris City Hall, taken from the square side.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Paris City Hall.

Author : BALDUS Edouard Denis (1813 - 1889)

Creation date : 1856

Date shown: 1856

Dimensions: Height 34.4 - Width 44.8

Technique and other indications: Salted paper proof. Album de Sèvres: photographs of views of monuments in France and floods in Lyon and Avignon in 1856.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 02-016074 / DO1983-127

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The seat of the municipality of Paris

The Place de Grève, which in 1803 became the Place de l'Hotel de Ville, has been the seat of the Parisian municipality since 1357, when Étienne Marcel, provost of the merchants, acquired the "pillar house" there for this purpose. On his return from the wars in Italy, Francis I decided to replace it with a new building which he commissioned from the Italian Dominique Boccador. In the first half of the 19th century, it underwent major changes which altered its initial style. The same prefect who will be in charge of changing the face of the square.

Image Analysis

Three states of the municipal building

The table by Théodore Hoffbauer, painted in 1856, was inspired by 16th century engravings to depict the square, then of beaten earth, gently sloping down to the “port de la grève”, where boats loaded with coal docked. of wood and lime. In its center stands a Calvary. The many characters who surround him give the feeling of an important and diverse activity. In the foreground, half-timbered houses, like Paris then had a lot, here on stilts, probably owned by the important corporation of water merchants. On the eastern facade of the square, noticeably dominating the other buildings, some of which are attached to it and striking both with their style and with their materials, the building designed by Boccador in the state in which it appeared around 1580.

The engraving by Jean François Jeaninet, dated 1810, shows the physiognomy of the Hôtel de Ville from 1628. The central body of the building is surmounted by a clock decorated with sculptures representing the Seine, the Marne, the Force, Justice and the City of Paris, and a three-level campanile. It is flanked by two square buildings with an arcade, one of which leads to rue du Martroy.

The photograph by Édouard Baldus, taken in 1856, shows the changes undergone by the square and by the Hôtel de Ville between 1830 and the Second Empire. The fact that the places seem deserted is due to the long exposure time required for a photograph, a constraint that has the effect of preventing the impression of people and moving vehicles. Side pavilions, attached to the central building to meet the needs of municipal services, contravene the original style of the building, which has grown to the detriment of residential blocks and now occupies the entire eastern facade of the square. The latter was widened and paved during the construction of the rue de Rivoli. The construction of a quay and the destruction of the houses closest to the river (late 18th century) changed the place's inscription in the city. The Pont d'Arcole (1830) is aligned with the façade of Notre-Dame and is located independently of the Town Hall and the square. This bridge connects the square to the Ile de la Cité but helps to empower the river. The presence of one of the wash-houses that appeared on the Seine in 1851 underlines the decline of the place's port function.


Images and heritage

The first two documents show the emergence of architecture inspired by the Italian Renaissance in a Paris until then marked by medieval town planning, visible in the houses reconstructed in Theodore Hoffbauer's painting. This painting and the almost contemporary photograph by Edouard Baldus attest that attention to heritage was a corollary of Haussmann’s work. The two artists then took part in the work of the Commission des monuments historique or benefited from its commissions. The first produced for the City a series of paintings showing Paris before and after the works of Haussmann. The second was selected for several public commissions. His photographs highlight the transformation of the landscape by modern Second Empire engineering. From a more or less similar angle of view, these two representations show that the square, long oriented towards the Seine, to which, moreover, it owed its original name, has now turned towards the Hôtel de Ville.

  • architecture
  • Paris city hall
  • Paris
  • photography
  • city
  • Haussmann (Georges Eugène)


Michaël DARIN and Béatrice TEXIER-RIDEAU, Squares of Paris, 19th-20th century, Paris, Artistic action of the City of Paris, coll. “Paris and its heritage”, 2003. Jean DERENS and Michel LE MOËL, Place de Grève, Paris, Artistic delegation of the City of Paris, 1991.

To cite this article

Danielle TARTAKOWSKY, “From the strike square to the Town Hall square”

Video: chapitre 37 le dernier jour dun condamné


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