Zabriskie Gallery New York, NY, USA
Daniel Wolf, Inc. New York, NY, USA
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Petit Bacchus, 61, rue St. Louis en l'Ile (The Little Bacchus Café, rue St. Louis en l'Ile)
Eugène Atget (French, 1857 - 1927)
Paris, France (Place Created)
Albumen silver print
22.1 × 17.8 cm (8 11/16 × 7 in.)
In this print, a woman, reminiscent of a figure by Vermeer, peers appraisingly through the glass panes of a storefront doorway at the photographer, Eugène Atget in the street (zoom in on image above). Dimly visible behind the center pane is a tabletop, seemingly set for a meal. As the woman wears an apron, it can be surmised that she is an employee of the establishment. Possibly on a break from her job, she appears curious as to why the entrance to her workplace is the subject for a photograph. Her fortuitous presence gives human scale to the architecture and adds a note of mystery to the picture.
Over the door, the sculpture of a baby Bacchus, the god of revelry, astride a wine cask surrounded by grapevines laden with fruit announces this store as that of a wine merchant. Atget's reason for photographing it was governed in part by a widespread revival of interest at the turn of the century in the history of the city. Neighborhood antiquarian societies, national libraries, and private collectors of material concerning Vieux Paris (Old Paris) would all have been likely customers for such an image. Somewhat surprisingly, this seventeenth-century sign still survives in situ. The sign and storefront are designated landmarks and now mark the entrance to a restaurant.
About seven years after creating the picture, Atget made a detail from a section of it in order to show at a larger scale the figure of Bacchus, the grapes he proffers, the wine bottle he holds, and the elaborately worked iron of the twining vines. Rephotographing the original print softened its crispness, but the existence of the detail confirms that Atget's overriding intent was in recording the embellished sign rather than the storefront per se.
Originally published in Eugène Atget, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum by Gordon Baldwin (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), 28. ©2000, J. Paul Getty Trust.
Martinez, Romeo and Alain Pougetoux. Atget: Voyages en Ville (Paris: Chene/Hachette, 1979), p. 49.
Atget, Eugène and Romeo Martinez. Eugène Atget 1857-1927 (Milano: Electa, 1979), p. 54.
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. Eugène Atget, Fotógrafo, 1857-1927: Lisboa, Junho 1981 (Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1981), fig. 16.
The Man in the Street: Eugene Atget in Paris, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), fig. 6.
Baldwin, Gordon. In Focus: Eugène Atget: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000), pl. 10.