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A Busy Street in Paris near the Place de l'Odéon. Watercolour. 28.4 x 20.2 cm. Signed and dated: “P. H. Eichens Paris 1838”.
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Having studied at the Municipal Trade School and the Academy under Wilhelm Hensel, Philipp Eichens moved from Berlin to Paris in 1835. He returned to Berlin in 1838/39 and again from 1845 to 1849 but then settled in Paris for good to pursue a career as a printmaker. According to the entry in the catalogue of the Paris Salon of 1838, at which Eichens was represented by the drawing Jeune princesse du moyen-age, touchant de l'orgue, the artist lived in the former rue des Francs-Bourgeois Saint Michel, now rue Monsieur-le-Prince, which connects rue Vaugirard with Carrefour de l'Odéon in the 6th arrondisement.
The rue Racine depicted here crosses rue Monsieur-le-Prince at right angles, so in effect Eichens is depicting his immediate everyday environment. Due to subsequent urban development, however, it is unfortunately no longer possible to pinpoint the exact spot at which Eichens painted this scene. Moreover, the artist took certain artistic liberties. The colour posters on the right-hand firewall advertising the issuing by the Parisian publisher, Maurice Schlesinger, of the complete edition of waltzes by Johann Strauss the Elder, which were immensely popular at the time, as well as a French-German dictionary are fanciful ideas on the part of the artist designed to instil added local colour. The festive decorations on the row of houses on the left may have to do with the birth on 24 August 1838 of Prince Louis Philippe Albert d’Orléans, the first-born son of Ferdinand Philippe d’Orléans, duc de Chartres. A public festival in Paris with fireworks and official celebrations was announced on 29 August of that year and it was customary for the municipal authorities to call on residents to decorate the fronts of their houses with the tricolour. It is not hard to imagine that Eichens, inspired by the lively, colourful goings-on in his neighbourhood, decided to perpetuate the events on the present watercolour. He has produced a witty and splendidly observed portrayal of everyday Parisian life, a visual souvenir which may have arisen immediately prior to his departure for Berlin, where he arrived in October 1838.