Whenever I’m in Paris, I make a point of visiting the Musée Carnavalet, which chronicles the history of the city. During my last pre-pandemic trip in 2018, however, the museum was closed for renovations. So, it wasn’t until June 2022 that I once again had a chance to wander the museum’s beautiful Renaissance hallways and contemplate a reality that is far different from the one I’m living.
Undone or Redone?
My favorite space in the museum used to be a large entry hall that was crowded with centuries-old signage, advertising a variety of businesses from bars to locksmiths to real estate agents. The room still exists, but its new coat of bright white paint and a sparser selection of artifacts left me feeling as though a somewhat sacrilgious defacing had been committed in my absence.
A docent intercepted my path and directed me to a new entry point. Previously, one would enter the museum and wander at will. Now, there is a specific course to follow through the museum. You start with pre-history and go from there. I was finding the new systematic routing somewhat off-putting, but this was the Carnavalet and I needed to give it a fair chance.
Following the prescribed track, I quickly became engrossed in the pieces before me. However, I was mildly apprehensive that some of the artworks I most wanted to see might no longer be on display. It was like going to a party where there are interesting new people to talk to but you will be disappointed if none of your friends turn up.
The Cris de Paris
As I entered each new room, I became increasingly convinced that the curators had done a good job re-organizing their collection. But, I couldn’t fully embrace the new arrangement until I came upon Les Cris de Paris in its new location.
Painted in 1634 by the virtually unknown “A. Doy”, The Cris de Paris is comprised of 4 wooden panels. Each panel depicts a variety of street vendors calling out their wares. I’ve loved this composition since the first day I laid eyes on it. Staring at the peculiar peddlers and imagining the cacophony of their sing-songy sales pitches conjures a vision of an utterly foreign world that once existed in spaces where you can still tread today—perhaps on some of the very same cobblestones.
17th-Century Career Quiz
Art historians believe that Doy based his caricatures on a series of engravings by Pierre Brebiette—also created in the 1630s. If indeed it was Brebiette who came up with the idea of capturing the hawkers of Paris, I am deeply grateful to him. But, I prefer Doy’s somewhat quirkier renditions, perhaps only because I saw them first.
While in the museum, I took pictures of several of the individual hucksters. Rather than placing them all in a gallery for you to browse, I thought you might enjoy a quiz where you must match the vendor with its French description.
Below you will find a table of images and descriptions but they are not aligned. Each description contains the name of a profession followed by the cry that the related merchant might have employed to attract a customer (according to Brebiette’s original etchings). An English description appears last. The answer key lies at the bottom of this post.
Test Your Knowledge
|1.||A. Marchand d’eau de vie.|
“À la bonne eau de vie pour rejouir le cœur!”
Merchant selling alcoholic spirits, made by fermenting honey, cereals, fruits, or other plants.
“Chaudronniers argent des rechaux!”
A coppersmith carrying a brazier and tools to help him mend and reshape pots.
|3.||C. Marchande de noir fumée.|
“À noirsir du noir!”
A merchant selling chimney soot, used to tint paints or make ink.
|4.||D. Marchand de fagots.|
“Foysre nouveau foisre!”
A merchant selling bundles of sticks.
|5.||E. Marchand de plumeaux.|
“Argent des houçois!”
A merchant selling feather dusters and rushes for beating carpets.
|6.||F. Marchande de beurre.|
“Beurre frais beurre frais!”
A butter merchant.
|7.||G. Marchande de cerises.|
“Serize douce serize!”
A merchant selling cherries and carrying a means to weigh the purchase.
|8.||H. Vendeur de journaux.|
A newspaper salesman, here hawking almanacs.
|9.||I. Marchand de paniers.|
“Argent des mannequins!”
A wicker basket merchant.
|10.||J. Marchand de parements.|
“Qui a de vieux parement d’argent!”
A merchant selling fine fabric used to line garments.
|11.||K. Marchande d’huitres.|
“Des huitres à l’escalle!”
An oyster merchant.
“À bon lait!”
A milk vendor.
|13.||M. Marchand de bancs.|
“Argent des celles!”
A merchant selling wooden benches.
|14.||N. Porteur d’eau.|
“Qui veut de l’eau!”
A water carrier.
I hope you enjoyed the challenge. Let me know how you did in the comments.
1-C, 2-N, 3-F, 4-J, 5-H, 6-A, 7-L, 8-D, 9-M, 10-B, 11-G, 12-K, 13-E, 14-I