Historical Background


paris.jpgThe siege of Paris
France lost all confidence after the defeat by Germany in 1871. The citizens of Paris were were so angry with what they saw as a betrayal, that they rebelled against the rest of France. The ‘communards’ effectively proclaimed independence, starting one of the most fascinating and desperate experiments in history. Women played a prominent part, and they fought with men on the barricades. The army was sent in to quell what was seen treason, and in the notorious ‘bloody week’ up to thirty thousand Parisians were slaughtered, and the survivors executed or sent into exile. You can find photographs on the web and innumerable references to the brave men and women, many killed in this social experiment. Check out Louise Michel.

moulinLe Moulin de la Galette
This famous moulin or windmill, was sited on the outskirts of Paris on the hill at Montmartre. It became famous as a drinking establishment and dancehall or guinguette where Parisians would come to relax, drink and dance, and eat pancakes called Galettes. It was painted by Renoir and later by Van Gogh, and in the 1870s,Montmartre was still comprised mainly of fields.

alt textLa Belle Epoque

Literally means the beautiful period, and is ascribed to the period from about 1871 to 1914. Wikipedia describes it as …’a period characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, an apex of colonial empires and technological, scientific and cultural innovations. In the climate of the period, especially in Paris, the arts flourished. Many masterpieces of literature, music, theatre, and visual art gained recognition. The Belle Époque was named in retrospect, when it began to be considered a “Golden Age”.

Charles Worth, an Englishman in Paris founded Haute Couture , and the House of Worth.

Disraeli was a British Prime Minister who famously bought a large number of shares in the Suez canal with the help of his friend Rothschild, for four million pounds, or thirty two tons of gold.

Charles Escoffier founded Haute Cuisine.

Emilie Zola has been called France’s Charles Dickens

Renoir was one of the founders of impressionaism, and in 1876 painted an extraordinary picture, which arguably changed art forever. He called it the ‘Bal du Moulin de la Galette’. It was sold in 1990 for $78mn USD, and now hangs in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.