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Windows in Paris sometimes lie

2012-02-28

1.jpgOne of the fascinating phenomena when you stroll in Paris are the so called „trompe-l‘oeil“ – in the direct translation „the lies of an eye“. In reality of Parisian streets and fasades it means painted windows or other images on the walls of the buildings, the most often painted fake windows on the walls which are actually without windows.

The purpose of these wall paintings can be deduced easily, animating the street, making the grey walls more colourful, transferring art directly to the streets. But why this frequent motive of fake windows? On many places the walls with several floors of the „windows“ decorate the fasades of Parisian buildings, attract the attention, make optical lies.

A difficult riddle? „Vous donnez la langue au chat?“ – „You give your tongue to the cat?“ (as the French say when they ask if you give up). Fake windows were supposed to decrease in the past the window and door taxes. Door and window tax, introduced in France dur2.jpging Revoluion, was a modern version of the ancient tax of Romans, so called „ostarium“, which was also related to doors and windows. This tax was cancelled in France in 1926. As mentioned in Wikipedia the doors and windows tax was part of four old direct taxes, together with the official tax, real estate tax and trade licence tax (all of them stipulated by the Constitution).

The tax amount was determined according to the number and size of windows and doors. So it concerned only the owners of houses or apartments and represented a logical equation, the richer the people were, the higher tax they had to pay. Together with this tax was introduced also the gardens and parks tax.

However, the tax became a target of accusations, since it caused building dark, tenebrous, not airy, hygienically incovenient dwellings. Many openings were cancelled, the owners destroyed the window bars which seraparated some windows in four parts and were making the tax amount higher. At that time the fake windows started to be painted, without any opening so that the owners avoid paying the taxes.

When you walk in Paris the „trompe-l’oeil“ are as a game. Your heart beats3.jpg faster with the excitement of each new discovery. It is as when you find the exit from the labyrinth. You can find them also according to the map, when you have their adresses, but the joy is much bigger if it is connected with a surprise, when you find them unexpectadly rolling your eyes on the building fasades.

Some advices where you should be more attentive and look up: the old quarter Marais, street rue Malebranche, street rue Saint Marthe, in the 18th arrondissement street rue du Ruisseau, in the 11th arrondissement the street rue de Lappe, rue Vaugirard, in the 4th arrondissement in front of the modern building Centre Pompidou...and those are only some, there are many many more.

Maria Dopjerova-Danthine, Paristep

 

Preview of picture in folder Paris street | Jan Schinko jr.