Friday, August 17, 2018

A few of my favorite things

August 17, 2018 -- Years before he retired, my husband Tom was a sartorial wonder.  He bought nice Italian suits, fine men's shirts, and colorful, whimsical ties and socks.  He looked like a stylish businessman or lawyer, but he was a college professor.  Many of his colleagues were decidedly frumpy in their attire; but not Tom -- until he started wintering in Florida.  Then the Hawaiian shirts and khakis took over.  (In Paris, his "uniform" is black t-shirt, black or tan jeans, and cotton short sleeved shirt -- not Hawaiian -- with Trask shoes.)

He still is particular about his socks, but no longer chooses colorful, whimsical socks.  He's now into black socks that aren't too difficult to put on.  So when I passed Mes Chausettes Rouges on the Rue Cesar Franck in the Place Georges Mulot neighborhood on the Feast of the Assumption holiday, I studied the display in the shop's window.

Mes Chausettes Rouges has the exclusive rights to sell Gammarelli socks online.  Gammarelli is the family of tailors who make all the robes and mitres for the cardinals and the Pope in Rome -- hence the emphasis on RED socks.  But Mes Chausettes Rouges sells other colors, too, as well as Mazarin socks.  Mazarin makes the green socks for the members of the French Academy, who wear black tailcoats with green olives embroidered on them.

The socks are mostly cotton but they are knitted with a fine Scottish yarn that makes them feel more like mercerized cotton -- soft, smooth, and not heavy. 

I took Tom see the shop yesterday, and he bought a pair of the Gammarelli variety, in black, for a whopping 20 euros.  He'll try them, but I think he will opt for something else because he wants thicker socks for walking.  When he finds the right black socks, he'll buy a dozen pairs or more so that they all match and he doesn't waste a minute of precious life looking for the matching sock.  His priorities have shifted through the years.
Interesting older commercial building on Rue Bellart,
by the former slaughterhouses site.

Not far from Mes Chausettes Rouges, on the Rue Bellart, I spotted a building that looks older than the rest of the neighborhood.  It stands just across the street from the former site of the slaughterhouses, so it must have been standing when the slaughterhouses still stood.  It really looks like two small buildings, joined by a verriere (glass-and-metal) enclosure in the middle.  Two rectangular windows in the front have the appearance of the kind of openings that would be used to serve customers.  I wonder what these charming little structures were, originally.

We noticed three or four small shops that specialize in restoring and framing art.  Three small workshops provide art lessons for adults and children.  None of these places were open because of vacation time, but it was fun to discover them.

The artistic legacy of Rosa Bonheur (1822 to 1899) is apparent.  One of the streets in the Place Georges Mulot neighborhood, as I've already mentioned, is named for her.

She was the first female artist to be inducted as a Chevalier in France's Legion of Honor, in 1865.  Empress Eugenie herself presented the award.  Rosa is particularly known for her paintings of animals.  Among those paintings are scenes at the slaughterhouses of Grenelle, Villejuif, La Villette, and Vaugirard.  She dressed as a man to get into the slaughterhouses; otherwise, the butchers would hassle her.  She even got a permit from the police to dress as a man (travestir).  Her brother, the sculptor Isidore Bonheur, created the two magnificent bull statues at the entrance to the Parc Georges Brassens -- formerly the entrance to the Vaugirard slaughterhouses.

The café boat on the Seine where we most often stop for refreshments is named for Rosa.   Her portrait is one of four featured in bas relief on the fountain in the Place Georges Mulot.  The scene in her painting below was from the horse market on the Boulevard de l'Hopital, in what is now the 13th arrondissement.  The painting is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Horse Market, by Rosa Bonheur
Having achieved success and renown, later in life she bought a chateau and farm near Fontainbleau where she and her animals lived in comfort.  She almost always dressed as a man then, and was openly gay.  Life as a lesbian wasn't easy in the 19th century, but it was possible for her because she had self confidence and was successful; she could write her own rules.

We left the Rue Rosa Bonheur when it was time for refreshments.  Walking down the Rue Lecourbe, we settled on a beautiful Art Nouveau café at the corner of Rue des Voluntaires.  We had a mercurial and disfunctional server who was about to give his boss a nervous breakdown.  But we managed to enjoy our snack and move on in time to search for dinner.

On the way we walked down the Rue Blomet, and discovered a park we'd not noticed before. 
The sign at the entry to the park tells it all, so I'll translate it for you:

The Moon Bird Square, 1969.  Formerly the Square Blomet, renamed in 2010, this green space was created at the site of former workshops occupied by numerous artists, including Alfred Boucher, Pablo Emilio Gargallo, André Masson, Joan Miró, and Robet Desnot.  

The square owes its name to the bronze sculpture The Moon Bird (1955) by Joan Miró, given by the artist to the City of Paris, present in the Square since 1974, rendering hommage to the poet Robet Desnos (1900-1945), who died a month after his liberation from the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Chech Republic.

The Moon Bird, front and back.

When asked about how he came up with his ideas for artwork, Miró answered, "Well I'd come home to my Paris studio in Rue Blomet at night, I'd go to bed, and sometimes I hadn't any supper.  I saw things, and I jotted them down in a notebook.  I saw shapes on the ceiling .  . . ."

Well, I think that explains The Moon Bird.

Our lovely friend Hollis Jeffcoat, the artist, may she rest in peace, met Monsieur Miró when she lived in Paris.  I think it must have been in 1974, when he was back in town to be honored by the City of Paris and when he gave The Moon Bird to the City.
The vegetable tian is the layered thing in the upper right corner.

Thinking of Hollis, we walked on to the Rue Cambronne and turned left.  After a few blocks, we reached our dinner destination, Les Favorites, at the corner of Rue Vaugirard. 

The dinner was excellent.  I had a small bass served whole (but de-boned already) with colorful vegetables scattered all over the plate as well as a vegetable tian.

Tom selected the rack of lamb for his dinner.  Both dishes were superb in every way.  This was our second visit to Les Favorites, and it seems it will live up to its name.

Rack of Lamb at Les Favorites.

1 comment:

CDStowell said...

Interesting about all the former artists' workshops in the 15th. Have you been to La Ruche, the collection of (former?) ateliers on Passage de Dantzig? Boucher, Chagall, Modigliani, Zadkine and others worked there, and I think you can visit the round, beehive-shaped building. Would love to see that myself.