Loitering Through the Paris Exposition
A BEAUTIFUL, brilliant Paris, a Paris all gayety and good-humor, a Paris without politics, — this was the Paris of the past centenary summer. Every street, every shop, had its link with the great show on the Champ de Mars, which pervaded the town and had possession of an entire quarter, extending to both banks of the Seine. I felt, on first crossing the threshold of the Porte Rapp, that it would be foolish and futile to spoil a holiday by working at the Exposition as if it were a task, so I made no study of its serious aspect, and addressed myself to some of its pleasure-giving sides. But the most irresponsible loafer could not fail to pay a tribute of admiration to France for the magnificent scope of plan and completeness of execution which give this a place above former world’s fairs. The achievement was not cosmopolitan, but French, — a world-wide manifestation of French genius, to which the nations of the earth have lent helping hands. It is the outcome of her best qualities, — method, organization, executive ability, a liberal conception, exactness of detail, finish, industry, the desire for knowledge and for its diffusion, the love of art, and, above all, taste. These are combined and controlled by practical sense and a splendid imagination; the same which signalized the Grand Siècle and the Napoleonic era.
The lounger was idly aware of how much there must be to engage the attention of the publicist and political economist, not in the history of human labor only, in its manifold illustrations, but at almost every step of his round. On the Esplanade of the Invalides, for instance, there was a pompous muster of the French colonies, a long double row of architectural caprices in gold, white, red and other gay colors, diminished reproductions of royal abodes, or places of worship or amusement, in the far East. Cochin China, Tonkin, Annam, Senegal, Algeria, and portions of other fractured empires had representative structures on each side of the wide thoroughfare, along which slim, smiling little Asiatics ran nimbly, pulling portly Europeans in jinrikshas. There was an air of family resemblance among these buildings and their contents and inhabitants, which may have existed chiefly in the ignorant eye of the beholder. They were imposing in name and number, however, and calculated to rouse the pride of the French and the jealousy of rival countries.
Americans bore no part in these heart stirrings and burnings, and the Malay village was more attractive to most of us than the party-colored, lacquered erections of the colonies. It was nothing more than a cluster of bamboo cottages thatched with palm-leaves, but so light and graceful in their simplicity that no civilized architect could excel them in design. They were disposed with such art that the effect was less of their having been brought from Java than of our having been transported thither. The delicate maize-colored surfaces were half hidden by the dark green foliage of planes, and in recalling them there is an impression, possibly delusive, of mango and cocoanut trees. In a larger and more decorated inclosure, roofed over, but open at the sides, was a sort of theatre, where a troop of Javanese girls danced at intervals all day. They were pretty, diminutive creatures, like a cross between babies and idols, wearing helmet-shaped head-dresses, heavy armlets, brooches, and buckles, and beautifully embroidered garments which swathed the figure from the armpits to the feet, leaving the shoulders and arms bare. The dance was a curious performance and a puzzling one, bizarre rather than barbarous; as monotonous as the devotional exercises of the Shakers, but graceful and sinuous, it ran through a series of evolutions, each dancer advancing, retreating, sidling, circling, without a partner, and punctuating the time slightly with the head. The clothes hid the feet, but although there was very little action from the waist down, the movements indicated a swift succession of mincing steps. The arms and hands were incessantly in play, and were extraordinarily lithe and flexible; each finger moved independently of the rest, like leaves on a twig, and the hand turned on the wrist like the twig on a branch, and the arm on the shoulder like the branch on a tree. There were many pairs of slender arms, inviting, repelling, interlacing, now arched like bowers, now stretched out like wings for flight, more bewildering than the legs in a ballet, for those at least follow the same step, while each of these bayaderes danced her pas seul subservient only to a common idea. What that may have been nobody could guess, even after watching them for half an hour through different figures, in some of which they whisked the end of a sash from one shoulder to the other. The steps, at times, became more rapid, complex, and mazy, and either the dancers or the musicians, I could not make out which, uttered little cries like the mew of a cat, but the dance did not become more exciting nor apparently reach a climax; it seemed like an Oriental tale, full of trivial incident, and ending without crisis or conclusion. The part played by the hands and arms is akin to the manner of Spanish gypsy dancing, but the immobility of the lower limbs, with a constant use of the feet, recalled the dancing of our Southern negroes, which is strange, as the Malay race has nothing in common, and can hardly have had communication, with the primitive tribes of Africa, from whom both the plantation and the Andalusian dancing come. The music was much wilder and queerer even than the dances ; it was in 2/4 time, and had the dotted notes which mark the double shuffle of the bamboula, but recalled no other music I ever heard, not even Chinese. The instruments are all said to be made of reeds, but included a sort of drum and several rude frames like the ancient lyre and Irish harp, from which the players drew sounds like the violin and viola and flute, as well as a ringing note, like musical glasses. The strains were rapid, plaintive, monotonous, and sweet, despite discords and insane intervals, which no musician in his senses could catch; there was less melody than rhythm, and a repetition which produced a not unpleasing irritation of the nerves. When musicians and dancers both came to a pause, the wonder still remained what it was all about.
Outlandish minstrels have become a feature of the great Expositions. In 1878, the gypsy bands from Hungary, at the Trocadéro, made a furore which led to a final solution of the mystery of gypsy music. A good deal had been written on the subject, to which Liszt devoted an entire volume, but a Hungarian gentleman settled the question by proving authoritatively that all their melodies were popular times of his native country, so old that they had been generally forgotten, which the gypsies had picked up ages ago on the steppes. This being established, the African character of the gypsy music in Spain is explained, and no doubt the Russian gypsy music can be tested by the same theory, Russia being rich in ancient melodies ; it would account, too, for the absence of music among the English gypsies, England proper having no native music. Last summer I met a large party of Alsatian gypsies, most of them showing purity of type in feature, complexion, and other physical signs, and speaking no language fluently except Romany. They practiced peddling in addition to their usual modes of making a livelihood, were Roman Catholics, and said that they had been members of that church and inhabitants of Alsace from the beginning of time; they had never heard of Egypt or Bohemia. They knew nothing of gypsy music as a tribal possession; three of them played hackneyed waltzes and opera airs on fiddles distractingly out of tune, yet with original modulations and intervals unlike mere vulgar strumming; they said they had learned these tunes par principe, whatever that meant. Yet they were genuine gypsies, — swapped horses, told fortunes, and were not above robbing hen-roosts. The fact is that the gypsies, who, as far as I know, pretend to nothing themselves and have nothing mysterious about them, but, like most other uncivilized people, sincerely wish to be let alone, have been put into the position of impostors by a class of pseudo-philologists who have made some small fame thereby. But now that this wandering race are proved to have no music of their own, the only art that was ever claimed for them, and have given up their tents and wagons, and taken to traveling and living in omnibuses, with cast-iron stoves and all the modern conveniences, they have lost every pretext to interest.
This must have occurred to the European public, for one heard of no gypsy bands at the late Exposition ; there were several Hungarian ones, and most likely gypsies among them. One of these was led by the Princess Lilia Dolgourowki, an eccentric Russian who, being separated from her husband and poor, plays the first violin of her little orchestra at cafés chantants. Another and better band, played at the Café Franco-Américain, was also led by a woman, very handsome and defiant-looking, pony-built, but with a fine, free bearing, aquiline features with sharp, spirited curves, great dark eyes open to the temples and overarched by high, slender brows, a fruity complexion, and a thick plait of black hair hanging down her back. She wore a white cloth dress, braided and corded with gold ; a green hussar jacket on one shoulder; and a stiff white cap like a visor turned back, from which fell a soft purse-shaped green crown ending in a gold tassel. She led, playing the violin with immense dash and go, the time beating through her from head to foot. Some of the other instruments were played by young girls, slim and flashing, but swarthy, unlike their queen, wearing short, dark blue dresses, red jackets braided with black, black Astrakhan caps shaped liked hers, and red, drooping purse-crowns. They played Strauss’s waltzes, airs from Offenbach and Lecoq, interspersed with Hungarian marches and dances, without notes, and with astonishing rapidity, rhythm, and a wild vagabond carelessness of consequences, looking about, chatting and laughing all the while. The consequences were a blissful jingle and clash, producing an indescribable intoxication in the hearer, differing with different temperaments, like more vulgar forms of the same vice. The difficulty is to get away from that music ; it is easier after the first piece than the second, and after the second than the third. You eat and drink as much as you can, and more than you want; other people are waiting for your table and chair ; the waiter fidgets about, but his fee has been in keeping with your lavish, reckless mood, so he does not remonstrate; you call for another glass of Tokay or Voslauer, which you cannot drink, as a new lease of your place. The crowd thickens; you feel that there is no excuse for staying, but you stay on until the queen comes in from her home stretch with a flourish of her bow, and lays down her violin. Then she and her musicians descend from the platform, sit down at an inner table, call for large cups of coffee and small glasses of Cognac, and light cigarettes, with a tranquil air of leisure in strong contrast to the tearing pace of their last performance, and you see your chance and go. Yet this was a shrill, noisy, rattling band compared to that which played nightly at the Hungarian restaurant, under the trees of goodness knows what remote spot, which was reached through garden paths, and pillared solitudes, and lurid cafés, and Egyptian darkness. There was nothing picturesque or military in the aspect of this orchestra, composed of eight or ten men, untidy and unkempt, but their music was entrancing. There were not a dozen instruments ; the leader played the first violin like a master, and the viola, if viola it was, and violoncello were scarcely inferior. They did not play from notes, and often as I heard them I could not discover whether they played by memory, ear, or improvisation. The first violin always took the air; the other musicians, who played on instruments which clashed like cymbals, rang like musical glasses, and clattered like castanets, seemed merely to follow. At the beginning of the concert they did not always pull together, there was a lack of sympathy; but as they played, especially if it were one of their national marches or dances, a perfect understanding came about. While the leader rushed along, the second violin neck and neck, like Faust and Mephistopheles on their midnight ride, the others marked the time by a monotonous beat, or pranced off into wild caracolings or mad spurts, racing back to the theme as to the goal. The melody is wild, but not always frantic ; sometimes it is a long, slow rhapsody drawn from the heart of memory and longing, of precious moments missed, of everything “by hopeless fancy feigned; ’’ the voice of the violin grows softer and lower, until it sinks to a whisper, then to a murmur, yet the tones steal into the ear and thrill the soul with the passion for what is out of reach, past forever, with the persuasion that could one follow that music it would lead to the land of desire. It is the tune the Pied Piper played to the children of Hammelin, and that the gypsy sang to the Duchess. The accompaniment purls like a brook muffled in rushes. When the charm is at its height, and musicians and listeners are rapt in the same ecstasy, one vibrating stroke of the bow breaks up the sorcery, and the mood changes, frenzy possesses the Hungarians again, and they are flying like a handful of Attila’s horde through the strains of some barbaric march. The hearers sit spellbound, with burning eyes and bewildered brains, before empty glasses and plates. A train on the Decauville railroad comes shrieking by, hidden in the night, overpowering the music for a moment, and everybody jumps up and tears themselves away.
Yet fickle Parisian fashion went over, at this Exposition, to the Roumanian band. Their instruments are for the most part stringed; there were some reeds, and the pandean pipe, more associated now with Punch and Judy than with Arcadia, but giving a rustic character to the performance, sentimental or humorous according to the melody. They played in excellent time and tune, with extreme sweetness and tenderness of expression. The airs have not the originality of the Hungarian, nor a spark of their fire ; they seem, like the Roumanian language, enfeebled, uncultivated Italian; when they are more distinctly national they are pastoral, with a certain regretfulness which pervades even the lively tunes. It is the music of a conquered people, without the martial despair of the Polonaises or the unconquerable turbulence of the Cszardas. The musicians are a fine-looking set of men, tall, well made, with Roman profiles, olive or ivory complexions, lustreless black hair in masses, and the same absence of polish on the thick black eyelashes which shadow soft, gleaming dark eyes, — long almond-shaped Eastern eyes, which have nothing European in their setting or glance, though they are noble and pensive. The national costume, white relieved by red, and profusely braided with black, is handsome and striking, and gives them a capital advantage. Costume had something to do with success at the Exposition ; there was an orchestra of Viennese girls, prettily dressed in the Austrian colors, yellow and black, who played gay dance music with great style and swing, and who attracted a crowd as much by their likeness to a female regimental band in an opéra bouffe as by their music.
Yet costume did not play an important part in the general view ; the pictorial effect which so gladdens the eye when it is brought about by arrangement or accident was missing. Men and even women in their national attire were to be met at every few steps, but the excessive preponderance of the so-called European dress, which is more truly English and American, extinguished more graceful and picturesque modes. The only relief from this prosaic aspect of the crowd was caught for an instant, now and then, in the Rue du Caire ; there, minarets, moucharabies, Saracenic roofs, horseshoe arches, and fretted lattices, under a strip of dark blue sky, overhung booths in which a brilliant confusion of Eastern colors, shapes, fabrics, physiognomies, turbans, fezes, perfumes, and sounds, with the more frequent Oriental dress, created a theatrical East, neither genuine nor spurious, but illusory and fantastic, like the hallucinations of anodynes. If at these moments a magnificent white donkey, bearing himself as proudly and gently as if he were carrying a Caliph, broke through the throng, with a bronzed Arab keeping step beside him, you had one of Gérôme’s pictures ; it had not local color or spirit enough for a Fromentin. The stately donkeys were much petted and patronized, not by children only, but by that class of sight-seer whom the French denominate badaud, — human jackass, in fact. One evening, early in September, the plaintive strains of the Roumanians were broken by the sound of feet tramping in step, men’s voices singing in unison, mixed with cheers and laughter. A big white donkey trotted by, with a bedizened badaude (the noun takes the feminine) jolting and bouncing, followed by a procession of volunteers from the Latin Quarter, in double file, carrying their hats on canes and umbrellas, and chanting a soldier’s chorus. Everybody laughed and cheered as they passed, and some young men joined the procession, which lengthened indefinitely as they burst along the Rue du Caire. Nevertheless, there was something that made the blood run cold in this demonstration on such a centenary ; it was like a sinister parody.
Except among the historical portraits and in the building dedicated to the Arts of War, there was nothing at the Main Exposition to wake terrible recollections. The Revolution was commemorated with excellent judgment by a separate exhibition in the remaining wing of the Tuileries. A bright garden with flowers and fountains occupies the area of the Place du Carrousel, which some of us remember filled by the beautiful buildings of the old palace, and later with the heaps of its ruin. There was a double fitness in this site for the Exposition Historique de la Révolution Française. It was divided with great exactness into periods, beginning with the Preliminaries and the Precursors, among whom were reckoned Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau, with likenesses of the last two at almost every age and in every material: they were represented in bronze, marble, earth, plaster, alabaster, china, biscuit, oil, crayon, pastel, pen and ink, pencil, ivory, terra cotta, and even some sort of dry goods stuff; by engravings, etchings, colored prints; on snuff-boxes, clocks, trinkets; and treated in every spirit, from apotheosis to caricature. Madame du Châtelet was there, too, — Voltaire’s divine Emilie, rather a pinched great lady. Washington and Franklin figured among the Precursors. Then came Louis XVI. and his hapless family, from the early scenes of his reign to the last act in the Temple. The pictures of the unfortunate Dauphin, first as a young prince, then as an abused and broken-hearted child, slipping from stage to stage of physical degeneration, were on the whole the most painful objects in the collection. There were departments for the Assemblée Constituante and the Assemblee Législative, chiefly illustrated by engravings and prints of processions and celebrations and of the taking of the Bastille. The portraits of Delaunay, the valiant governor of the Bastille, and of the Abbé Bailly, gentle, venerable, learned-looking, were very affecting. The National Convention followed, and the clubs, among which were some fine heroic heads, carried away and lost by a great idea, conspicuously many of the Girondists’. Danton was there with mother and sisters, broad, short, strong middle-class faces, and Camille Desmoulins with his Lucile. Of them there were several portraits; two in crayon were the most interesting, — comely, youthful, enthusiastic countenances. Lucile is the perfect example of the extinct race of grisette, rather pretty, arch and charming; her betrothal ring was there, a token which could not fail to rouse emotion, even in the breasts of royalists. There was a later portrait of her, powdered and dressed like a fine lady, not so pleasing. Among the leaders of the Revolution a type occurs peculiarly repulsive in its anomaly, — the muscadin, the bloodthirsty dandy. Fabre I’Eglantier and St. Just were of this class, though the patriotic flash of the last named belies his frills and ruffles. Robespierre was the worst specimen; it was frightful to see him as a pretty little man in a high starched muslin cravat and smart waistcoat. But there were plenty of faces and mementoes to curdle the blood, in that collection. The actors of the Terror elbowed the victims ; there were sanguinary and incendiary proclamations, vile lampoons, decrees of exile and confiscation, sentences of death. There were clothes which belonged to the royal family, remnants of female finery, pieces of furniture, fans, a little carpenter’s tool with which the poor harmless king worked hours when he should have been saving his kingdom and his life : these relics of short-sighted frivolity and short-lived happiness were the most pathetic. of all.
The transition from the rule of the lamp-post to that of the guillotine brought in the Committee of Public Safety; the objects connected with the deaths of Marat and Robespierre were revolting, hideous in their association. With the Directory the horror abated: military engravings of the bridge of Lodi, Arcola, the Pyramids, commemorated the new era of hope ; the classic fashions came in, — portraits with hair ft la Titus, the exaggerations of the merveilleuses and incroyables, which the folly of the year 1889, reproduced for women. The fatal, predestined face of Bonaparte in its haggard young beauty appeared among the pictures, as if every painter to whom he sat had the prophetic eye. In this department were curious engravings and relics of the festivals in honor of the Supreme Being, of Reason, of Youth, of Age. With the Consulate the family of Bonaparte comes on the scene, sculptural, august, antique; and portraits of the generals of the republican armies, young, ardent, triumphant, with beautiful young wives, recalling Madame Junot’s observation, “They were all thirty, we were all twenty.”As fitting accompaniment to these were the flags and arms of their victories. Besides the portraits of soldiers of the last period were those of physicians, men of letters, actors and actresses, musicians, painters, men of science, clergymen. The series closed with the Consulate.
The French talent for classification and arrangement, which made this illustrious chapter in modern history so remarkable, was shown in a line of buildings setting forth the progress of human habitation. Beginning with the caves of the troglodytes, they passed through prehistoric stages, marked by cabins of mud and straw, by huts of unhewn stone, by the tents of the nomads, by the wattled cots on piles of the lake villagers, by the baked clay and thatched lodge of a later period. The infant race could be traced through the stone age, the iron and bronze ages, and the misery of those silent, eras, struggling with the obdurate substances of nature in the search for a home. By degrees these were turned into weapons and tools. But the great stride of man in raising his home from a mere shelter against weather and wild beasts to an abode of comfort, with the incipient notion of adornment, begins with nations who had easily worked materials at hand, — the Egyptians and Assyrians, who built in brick, the Phœnicians, who used wood. Their constructions had symmetry and a style of their own a thousand years before the Christian era, and were more ornamental than the Greek house of the time of Pericles, five hundred years later. The refinement of an older civilization, too, was apparent in these models ; it was like going back to ruder times when one reached the European dwelling of the Merovingians in its due place and period. Yet it had architectural merit, the first qualities of which in a house are stability and comfort. The example at the Exposition was very striking, with its outer staircase of stone, the arched recess over the door, the belfry, and the walls built of both rough and hewn stone, mixed with broken pillars and capitals, fragments of the Roman Empire which had been trampled under the hoofs of barbarian hordes over the whole surface of Europe. Those invaders were recalled by a rude wain, of primitive pattern, such as served the Huns for transporting their women and children and storing their booty ; except that it was covered, it could not have differed much from the state chariot of the Merovingian princes. The prettiest abodes were those of the latest Carlovingians, during the tenth century, and of the time of St. Louis of France, three hundred years later. The first was a cheerful example of domestic Romanesque ; the second was a large cottage, Gothic and cross - timbered. Next to them stood the most charming, the gayest of European habitations, a " hostel of the Renaissance,” which looked like the wing of a Valois château transported from the banks of the Loire to the Seine. It was at this point, and scarcely anywhere else, that want of room was felt ; the dwellings of different epochs and races were crowded too close for each to fill its place in the gaze or the imagination. These exquisite reproductions, in most cases necessarily reduced from the original size, would have gained greatly by being isolated and screened by trees or shrubbery ; it must have been a grief to the architect, Mr. Charles Gamier, to see them set thus cheek by jowl. The elegance with which he has invested every structure, from the ancient Hindoo palace and the hostel of Henri II., to the red man’s wigwam and the bee-hive huts of central Africa, is the property of his individual talent, and to reconstruct them from monuments and exhumed or excavated specimens is a feat of artistic capability, knowledge, and ingenuity. It would have gladdened Prescott to look upon the abodes of the Mexicans and Peruvians as he depicted them before the Spanish invasion, in their smiling and simple luxury, — the luxury of warm and kindly climates, which foster the passive enjoyment of existence. There was a general resemblance between these shreds of the annihilated civilizations of our hemisphere and some of the world’s older half, Moorish, Arab, and Persian, but not to any of Mongol origin.
The interest of this review insensibly roused the desire for information, against which I had shut my mind. From the history of human habitations there was an inevitable tendency to see something of the earth on which they are based. In a separate pavilion there was a model of the terrestrial globe, some forty feet in circumference, therefore about the size of an ordinary three-story house; the reduction from reality was one millionth. It was not only the globe of the school-room magnified, — it was a synopsis of the conditions and the resources of this world of ours: the course of the rivers, the chains of the mountains, the infractuosities of the coast and the appalling expanse of the sea, the extent of the forbidden region which guards the poles, could be seen and comprehended ; the mineral products were indicated by dots of different colors for the different species; tlie lines of navigation and railway travel and telegraphic communication could be traced. The globe slowly revolved, and the spectators, hushed and subdued for the most part by the grandeur of the scheme, passed round it by a spiral gallery of three grades, by which they could look down on the north pole and up at the southern one. The enormous disproportion between the habitable earth and the inhospitable sea amazed the mortals creeping along the huge ball; terra firma is degraded to the rank of an island. To me, the numerous chains of great lakes in various countries which I had supposed to be arid, and the gradual passage from the equatorial to the arctic zones in lands which I habitually think of as tropical, were the greatest surprise. But it was less any detail than the whole by which I was impressed, and by the overwhelming calm of the vast blue ocean spaces. M. Melchior de Voguë, who has described the Exposition in some very able and agreeable papers for the Revue des Deux Mondes, noticed the “ majestic gravity ” which settled on the visages of the spectators, who, as the globe turned before their eyes, felt that they were becoming suns. I cannot say what the effect of this contemplation had on Frenchmen, but certain Americans found their personality entirely absorbed by it for the moment.
One left the terrestrial globe with renewed curiosity about the countries so far apart on its surface, so near together on the Champ de Mars. The Centennial Exposition of 1876, and the multiplication of Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and Algerine shops in the cities of Europe and America, have singularly cheapened the fascination which ten years ago was so powerful in sticks and straws, paper screens, and olive-wood rosaries. The mongrel Levantines, who represent many Eastern countries at world’s fairs, help to dispel the charm and illusion. In the Rue du Caire, the semblance of an Oriental street justified the trumpery wares of the booths and bazaars; but many of their departments, notwithstanding some really precious things which they had to show, made an irritating display of pinchbeck gimcracks and rubbish. There was relief in getting out of them into the solid semi-barbaric gorgeousness of Siam, with its scarlet and gold, and deep, rich flower-pattern carving. Strolling away from more distant regions, which had been brought too near, I came upon Greece, where gaudy tastelessness was to be seen on every side. For one ungrateful moment, the indolent dilettante forgot that the museums of other countries contain the treasures of Greece ; the best modern objects in her exhibition were fierce and fine-looking manikins in beautiful costumes. In the miniature republic of San Marino, on the contrary, the taste and harmony of assorted color were remarkable, not only in old carpets and canopies, but in modern imitations of them, almost large enough to cover the whole of that interesting little state. The Danubian principalities excited sympathy by their uncomfortable position of nuts in the crack of a door; whichever face Janus turns, they fare ill. With manners of hardy simplicity, they possess some of the perceptions and talents of luxury, as their embroidery shows, but their native arts are said to be perishing under the grind of political pressure and the importation of cheap manufactures. The Norse countries have a fresh, unspoiled originality and charm, a distinct character, which will be remembered by everybody who went to the American Centenary Exposition in 1876; they have lost nothing of it. and Norway in particular has pursued her handicrafts along the old lines, which continue to lead only to successful results.
But at every turn one came face to face with France, giving new delight by some new outgrowth of her versatile genius. The Exposition was a summary of her characteristics, her serious qualities, and her seductive foibles. Taste, ingenuity, and manual skill are present in her humblest work, and her artisans are nearly always artists in their crafts. There were jewels in the Parisian exhibition worthy of a place in the Green Vaults at Dresden, or among the cinquecento trinkets in the Louvre; there was a minute monster formed of a pearl, pink coral, and enamel, from the firm of Froment-Meurice, as perfect as any similar product of the Renaissance. But it was among the toys that the frivolous side of the French was seen in its most attractive light. One glimpse of the show-cases made men and women merely children of a larger growth. They crowded about the plate-glass, leaving the little people to howl for a sight. The loveliness, the exquisite raiment, the infinite variety, of the dolls, and the scenes which they enacted, were enough to keep an intelligent visitor amused all day. They included every nation and social station. For the most part, they represented children, though there were some Lilliputian ladies and gentlemen variously occupied, as, for instance, in learning the minuet, three figures in the dress of Louis XVI.’s reign, — an old gentleman playing the violin, and a handsome young couple dancing ; they were mechanical puppets, and the slow, stately motions, the ineffable airs and graces, the pointing of the lady’s toe and dropping of her fringed eyelids, were in keeping with the business on hand. A delicate sense of high life and humor designed that group, which even to the very chair and music-book were of the ancien régime; but what fingers trimmed their dresses, and tied the bows, and fastened the shoe-buckles? It was in such creations that French finish and perfection of detail could be studied. Even more delightful than this was the party round the cherry-tree, — half a dozen boys and girls, about a third the size of life : one exulting in having got to the top ; another, with a face of consternation, losing his grasp and about to fall ; those below holding up hats and pinafores for the fruit. They represented charming children of eight or nine, with expressions as natural and vivacious as portraits. A group on a smaller scale gave the daily drama of the Tuileries gardens. The Russian nurse, in national costume (for whom there is now a fashion in France), sits on a bench, holding a beautifully dressed baby ; but her attention is absorbed by a rakish doll in uniform leaning over her shoulder, while a toddling child falls on the gravel, and cries with a piteous grimace and tears of glass, a little elder sister, full of anxiety, stooping to pick him up. There was the utmost cleverness and truthfulness in these small parodies of life; the smiles which the nurse and her admirer exchanged were enough to raise a blush.
A large portion of the toy department was taken up by military playthings, weapons of every sort, which might furnish the arsenals of Oberon. There were cavalry, infantry, artillery and ordnance, sappers and miners, sailors and marines, correct in every accoutrement; battles fought by the latest rules of warfare ; sieges by land and water, where gun-boats and torpedoes played their part, and redoubts were assaulted and defended by hundreds of tiny soldiers of every grade, with every appliance of modern engineering. These toys were exceedingly beautiful and instructive; they testified painfully to the determination constantly expressed by French people of fortune to bring their children up from the cradle in familiarity with military science and the art of war.
The arts of luxury were on the whole best set forth by the Lyons silk manufacturers. There were velvets, satins, brocades, crapes, gauzes, and other fabrics, costly and ephemeral, an inexhaustible variety of hue, shade, and texture. The harmonious effect of so many colors thrown together was an æsthetic feat of the persons who arranged the show-cases. The revived taste for flowered stuffs and ribbons, the latter a separate branch and worth an hour’s study, has opened a new field for the French workman, and many of the designs had the beauty of fine flower-painting. It is distressing that these superb and exquisite inventions, that so much taste, sentiment, and fancy, should he expended on the most transient of caprices ; a year, three at the most, and the fashion will have changed, the designs and tints will be out of date, the very names of the tissues forgotten. Their duration is as fugitive as that of the delicious scents which exhaled from the perfumery department, near by; heliotrope or violet are the odors of elegance one season, ylang-ylang or vetiver the next, and the last choice essence makes those of former years vulgar. It is not too much to say that the Lyons exhibition gave a pleasure akin to that one finds in picture-galleries and flower-gardens.
But there were real gardens, besides the gay, graceful planting which embellished the grounds of the Exposition in every direction, and set the pavilions of distant countries among the bloom and foliage of their native climate; for the grassy slopes of the Trocadéro were the scene of successive flower-shows, each seeming more lovely and luxuriant than the last. And there were real pictures, so many and so fine that not a few visitors turned their backs on everything else, and gave themselves up to the Gallery of Fine Arts. There too France led, far in advance, and her superiority has been recognized by all the other countries which could presume to compete with her. Belgium, Holland, Bavaria, and Austria at eight international expositions have given her the palm, and at Paris, last spring, the international jury proposed to award a medal of honor to every Frenchman who exhibited a picture. The rules of the Exposition wisely forbade such a compliment, but the jury incorporated in their report the tribute to the supremacy of their hosts. It was with mingled excitement and calm, the emotion of great moments, that the picture-lover crossed the threshold of the Gallery of Fine Arts, where the eye was instantly held by the novelty of material and color and the new mode of architecture. Blue was the predominant tone, clear and positive like the sky of May, and the first effect was cold and crude, particularly in juxtaposition with the many-shaded terra cotta; but it was soon found to be restful and soothing to the nerves, and peculiarly advantageous to the statuary which filled the porticoes and halls of entrance. Few people who entered them with the belief that sculpture is a lost art can have come away of the same mind. There was much that was ugly and some that was bad, but there was a vigorous manifestation of creative power. The French have the secret of giving life to their statues and busts, among which there were many strong and many beautiful productions. There were fine groups of men and animals, some, I believe, from Belgium ; and in the small exhibition from Scandinavia there were works of great talent, grace, and spirit, though I am uncertain whether they were Norwegian, Swedish, or Danish. The art of those northern countries, which has slumbered since their appearance in history, except as regards architecture, has begun to make itself seen and heard. First arose a school of music. Lindblad, Jenny Lind’s countryman and early master, has left a large collection of beautiful songs, which are not as well known as they deserve to be. Since his time there has been a great change : the name of some Scandinavian composer is now to be seen on the programme of almost every fine concert; such artists as Ole Bull, Christine Nilsson, the brothers De Reszké, Madame Essipoff, — for Russia awoke at the same time,—prove that neither creative genius, nor the gift of voice, nor the facility of the virtuoso, nor dramatic talent is wanting among them. With almost the sole exception of Thorwaldsen, the Norsemen were absent from fine art exhibitions, but of late years they have claimed a modest place. There were small compartments devoted to Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and even Finnish painting, opening on the long gallery in the second story of the Palace of Fine Arts, in the Champ de Mars. Some of them were merely creditable school compositions by pupils of Parisian painters ; others showed true originality and developing strength. There are fewer tricks, and mannerisms, which the French call tics, in the contributions from those remote coasts than from the studios of central Europe. One characteristic which they have in common with the Russians (who made no great show on this occasion) is a look of hard truth, something different from so-called realism. They have their share of this tendency, too, and in many of their pictures there is struggle between it, a raw realism like a child’s attempt at painting, and a childlike, dreamy imaginativeness, as if they had not got their foothold yet. Their technique is painstaking in every branch, but they succeed best with landscape, and with strange atmospheric effects which are nevertheless felt to be faithful. These offspring of the vikings paint the ocean well. A small and exceedingly beautiful sea-piece, by a Norwegian named Nils, holds its place in my mind’s eye, —a rising tide under a sunset sky. It was touching to see the light-haired men and women staring with their sea-blue eyes at their countrymen’s pictures. Some of them wore their handsome national dress; in one party there was a fair bride, with glittering golden locks and a complexion like sunset on snow, in her fresh veil and bravery.
English and American visitors owe a word of thanks to these good people and to all like them, who enlivened the prosaic crowd by a touch of variety and sentiment. There were French peasants, men and women, who went about with intent, intelligent faces and manners often of chilling dignity, in smart, clean array, unconsciously helping to keep alive a sense of the picturesque.
The English made a fine show, which must have been a consolation to national vanity, if it ever needs consoling, for the lamentable competition in London, last season, at the Royal Academy. Grosvenor and New galleries. No doubt these had suffered by so many good pictures having been sent to Paris, but it was noteworthy that the painters who made the best figure there were those whose canvases had redeemed the London exhibitions.
The Belgians came next the French, to my thinking. They made an agreeable display with the largest proportion of pictures which would be suitable for drawing-rooms and boudoirs ; but perhaps it might be termed a subdivision of the French school, of which they show the influence far more than of their own glorious predecessors.
The excellence of the United States department of painting must have been a joyful and proud surprise to a great many diffident Americans, if such there be. The trademark of the Paris studio is on many of our pictures, too, but not to the same degree as with the Flemish; it might also be objected that such names as Dannat, Rheinhart, Klumpke, De Meza, and many more equally foreign do not represent native American talent; but they would represent a vote at our elections, and if the genius of our people derives some of its quality from an infusion of foreign blood, no doubt some of our progress in art comes from the same element. Among the painters who are most vivid in their inspiration and most noxious in their influence are Whistler and Duverneck. There were very few pictures of the former, but one, at least, was a masterpiece, — a portrait. At his best he is inimitable, and he is not to be imitated when he is below it. Hitchcock’s Madonna among the Lilies attracted the attention of American visitors more than his Tulip Culture, — a large canvas, on which a woman clad in lilac-gray stands among bands of deep pink, white, straw-color, and pale pink flowers diversified by green, crossing the picture horizontally, against the near background of a gray barn and olivegreen cottage, wall, and trees. This memorandum gives an idea of the composition, but not of its charming result. Alexander Harrison had a fine picture, even if to the mere observer of nature the color might not seem quite true, — artists know best, — a gentle surf and full moon above the horizon. A beautiful sea-piece by T. W. Richards, and one or two more studies of the same subject by painters not yet famous, gave promise that we shall soon have a fine marine school. I could give a long list of the pictures before which I spent some time, though less than I wished, in the United States exhibition : but a catalogue of names would be tedious, and trying to describe works of art is vain, unless one be both painter and writer.
The French pictures were so many and so good that it would be hopeless to try to do them justice. The last exhibition I had seen was the triennial Salon of 1883, comprising the best works of art of the previous three years. The exhibition at the Champ de Mars was a decennial one, again made up chiefly of the callings from the annual Paris exhibitions since their last international exposition. I noticed three marked improvements, from an æsthetic point of view : as a rule, the representations of the nude were not indecent, the scenes of violence were not revolting, and there was a distinct decrease of the mode of painting which makes a picture look like the wrong side of worsted work or a bit of rag carpet. But there never was a time in which there were so many diversities of style ; contrasts could hardly go further in conception and treatment of the same subject in every school of painting, — portraits, landscapes, religious, marine, military. One would like to say, “ My brethren, be not many masters,” but the difficulty is rather that there are too many pupils. The military painters were all there ; the French certainly put action, furious action, the furia francese of their old charges, into their battlepieces. The landscape school of this century was magnificently represented : all the great names were seen in great works ; there was an autumn wood by Rousseau, into which you seemed to be walking as you advanced toward the picture. An uncomfortable conviction for Americans follows an hour in a Paris fine arts exhibition, that notwithstanding famous names and fabulous prices the best specimens of contemporary French art do not come to us, not even in genre pictures; the Angelus and its companions at the American Art Association are the exceptions which prove the rule.
Besides the decennial exhibition, there was a centennial collection of paintings in the broad, square gallery under the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts, brought not only from the Louvre, but from the provincial museums throughout the country. After the effete, effeminate art of the expiring monarchy, the splendid outburst of artistic vitality is as striking as the explosion of military genius under the Consulate and the Empire.
The retrospective exhibitions at the Trocadéro went back to the rise of the various arts and trades. The history of sculpture in France filled a suite of spacious halls with reproductions of her most venerable and interesting monuments and examples of every period and style. The extraordinary dignity and beauty of the series and the impression it made on the imagination contrasted singularly with the effect produced on me, not long before, by the collections in the South Kensington Museum, with their modern air of well-classified facsimiles.
This exhibition of sculpture was one of the few departments of the Exposition where the past was not pressed out of sight by the present and the future. Modern invention possessed the field. The Seine was bordered by a line of buildings exhibiting the operations of the Commissariat of Subsistence of peace, the Panification of Paris, the development of coffee and chocolate. It was a pleasure to look at them from the opposite bank with the certainty of never setting foot inside them. Enough could be guessed of the place which, supplying the mere necessaries of life, holds in life itself by making the round of the Exposition grounds on the little Decauville railroad. The stations and track had a holiday air, and you took a seat in the wagonette with a feeling that you would presently arrive in an unknown country. Directly it whirled by Eastern kiosks, modern manufactories, Chinese pagodas, mediæval battlements, bamboo inclosures, openings into contemporaneous Paris with its omnibuses, tramways, and cabs. The juxtaposition and sequence were brainfeverish. There were intervals of relief, when nothing could be seen on either side but a row of trees within walls posted with cautions to the passengers in every known and unknown tongue. Though not an Orientalist, I felt at home with the Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Chinese inscriptions, after puzzling over the bewildering characters of Coptic and Malay. There was one in Latin which began “ O Cives,” with a Ciceronian appeal to passengers not to put their heads and arms out of the windows, etc., and the Spanish placards headed “Haro!” stirred the spirit of adventure instead of repressing it. To satisfy the cosmopolitan, there was a notice in Volapuk, which must commend itself to every linguist in search of a simple, natural basis for the universal language : “ Sanito ! Diedolsöd bimis no pladolsöd lögis ni kapi plö vars.”
The praise bestowed on the architecture of the Galerie des Machines, or, as M. Melchoir de Voguë termed it, the Palace of Force, led me once to traverse it slowly. The might of Nature, the tremendous energy of man, come home to the mind with overwhelming power in the presence of the enormous engines by which the one holds the other in cheek and subservience. They justify the boast of Archimedes. But the monster of Frankenstein and M. Renan’s Caliban, and the awful revenges of these stupendous slaves when they turn upon their masters, haunt the fancy. The brain reels between exultation at the Titanic achievements of man and the perpetual defeat and sacrifice of men ; at the thought of the innumerable victims to these victories, of the more innumerable whose existence is lifelong thrall to those mastodons. I nearly forgot that I was there for enjoyment, and made haste to get into the open air.
To a mind incapable of grasping the simplest principle of mechanics, the sight of the Eiffel Tower and the adjacent buildings was a pleasanter manifestation of human prowess. I found that they were most imposing by night. Then the vulgarity inseparable from an indiscriminate crowd, the trivial details, the clap-trap, the pasteboard aspect of huge temporary structures, were lost in a vaster and more comprehensive impression, at once more real and more fantastic. At a stated hour, the illumination of the fountains produced a marvelous transformation scene, beautiful enough for fairy-land if it could have been watched from some coign of vantage out of reach of the many thousand pairs of elbows below ; this drew the crowd to one point, and then was the time to see the exterior of the Exposition. Then the palaces and temples threw black silhouettes on wide glaring white spaces, and quivering shadows of leaves and tendrils decorated the black walls. Then the broad alternations of darkness and brightness were deserted, and one wandered among their mysterious pavilions and strange gardens like Haroun Alraschid in search of adventures. There was a transcendent grandeur in the luminous outlines of the main buildings against the soft summer dusk. Through the broad arch in the base of the Eiffel Tower, across a murky interval warmed by the presence of indistinguishable gold and color, rose the colossal semblance of an altar lighted with numberless tapers ; it was like the nave and choir of some Byzantine cathedral of fabulous dimensions, waiting for the nations of the earth to gather for midnight mass. From a different angle one saw the halls and colonnades of Lucifer,
Rais’d on a mount, with pyramids and towers
From diamond quarries hewn and rocks of gold.”
The steadily shining high altar seen through the overarching vault was the terrace of the Trocadéro, on the right bank of the Seine. In crossing the Alma bridge to reach it, another wonderful scene was revealed : as far as the eye could follow, the banks glittered with millions of many-colored lights, jeweling the darkness and doubled in the jetblack stream. Along the edge they threw a reflection like the pillars of an endless arcade ; elsewhere they were flung and heaped together like flowers of fire. The river was spanned by gleaming bridges, below which the dark ripples changed to a sparkling network, and the surface was broken into lines and dashes of light by boats of every size darting to and fro like fireflies, the gilded Bucentaur of the Louvre gliding smoothly between the flashing links mirrored from its galleries. My companion and I passed from this into an embowered avenue, emerging on a broad gravel walk between borders of emerald turf : a high rose hedge on one hand, covered with countless buds and full-blown blossoms; on the other, a dazzling flood, rising in waterspouts, falling in cataracts, flowing away in tossing waves between marble embankments. We walked slowly up the solitary garden, following the flash of the waters which drowned our speech, breathing the fragrance of the roses, watching the architectural lines of the terraces carved in light, which cast their reflection upward on the pale, unillumined facade of the Trocadéro. We were alone, we had it to ourselves ; the solitude and the splendor, the delicious odors, belonged to the precincts of enchantment. When we reached the highest grade we turned, and beyond the Seine the Champ de Mars in its nocturnal effulgence lay before us like a city of palaces, its gold and silver and rainbow fountains leaping into the air.
It was by night, and miles away from the Exposition, that I had my last sight of those lofty piles looming over Paris, and looking down from their sublime height upon the cupolas, towers, and spires, monuments of other triumphs. Below me spread a dark, billowy expanse of tree-tops, into which from the further side a double line of light jutted like a pier ; southward the branches lifted and gave a glimpse of myriad tiny, twinkling, hurrying lamps, but the foliage rolled together again, and rose densely to the horizon. Above, up among the stars, three radiant shapes were outlined in white fire against the firmament,— a vast dome, an amphitheatre, and an aerial tower of slender convergent lines ending in a mild, intense beacon light, with a long wake like a comet sweeping this way and that over the enshadowed city and the dim, sleeping country. It was a symbol of the light of knowledge streaming from the great pharos of the Exposition.