The artist François Etienne Villeret (French, 1800-1866) painted Place Vendôme during the late 1830’s as indicated by dated comparable watercolours of various Place Vendôme interiors by the artist, most c. 1839 about the time the Ann(e)s past through France on their way to Russia. Much as it is today, this area was a popular destination with English speaking travellers and it is the location Anne Lister chose to rent during her Paris trip of 1824-25. It likely would have looked similar when Anne’s eyes last took it all in, though there were some changes through years which shall be included later on in the post. (For additional information on this time period in Anne’s life see Danielle Orr’s thesis, ‘A sojourn in Paris 1824-25: sex and sociability in the manuscript writings of Anne Lister (1791-1840).‘)
Anne, along with her servant Elizabeth Wilkes Cordingley, stayed at 24 Place Vendôme, at a small guesthouse run by M. and Mme de Boyve where she would meet Maria Barlow, and her thirteen year old daughter Jane, of Guernsey. In the journal entry of Wednesday 1st September 1824, she notes, “Arrived, & myself & my luggage upstairs (187 [117?] steps from the ground), in my room at 11-35″/60. (Whitbread, 1824 – 28 of 42).
Journal Entries for Anne’s arrival in Paris at 24 Place Vendome. (West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/0038 & SH:7/ML/E/8/0184)The above watercolour-
currently up for auction if anyone is interested, est. £ 700 – 900 (UPDATE 2021-04-21: now sold at £4,080!) – is incidentally from the Dunrobin Castle estate, the birth place of George Sackville Sutherland the father of George Mackay Sutherland who was Ann Walker’s sister, Elizabeth (Walker) Sutherland’s husband. It shows the area and includes what is likely the exterior of Anne’s apartment in good detail.
In the foreground, right, just above the bustling street life, can be seen the street numbers “2” and “354” for 2 Place Vendôme and 354 Rue Saint-Honoré respectively.
When cross-referenced against a street plan comparable to the painting it can be verified that 24 Place Vendôme should be visible in the background just to the right of the Vendôme column.
And there it is, somewhere, but where? The number of steps – Anne counted! – places them well upstairs in the establishment.
But why did Anne choose Place Vendôme in the first place? Was it sought out? Or did a chance synchronicity present itself as an irresistible opportunity?
The first mention, that I have found to date, of this location is five years previous to her arrival and during an early trip to the city on 22 May, 1819 (with a double mention into the index, “Place Vendôme and column”. During a whirlwind walking tour she comes to the building:
“From hence to the Place Vendôme – the allied troops pulled down Napoleon from the summit of the magnificent column, and the white flag has succeeded him – but his eagles, one at each of the 4 corners, still cling round the top of the base – the column 100 feet high – I mean to go to the top – cannot do it now, or, indeed, at all without first getting permission (for which I must go myself), of some one in the rue Saint-Honore who is concierge, or whatever they call him, of the column – the Place Vendôme very handsome – the Persian Ambassador (who was in London) lodges there, at the hotel de Londres -“
Two days later she returns in attempts to scale the column – on Monday 24, May, 1819:
“- thence to the Place Vendôme, and the rue Saint Honore, to get tickets to admit us to the top of the column tomorrow – we went at a wrong hour and could not therefore get the tickets -“
Does she ever reach the top? I have not found a journal entry yet. However, she no doubt would have seen the column from her window at number 24 prior to moving on to 15 Quai Voltaire with Mrs. Barlow.
Anne would have seen Place Vendôme as it looked in this painting during her later stays in Paris at 27 Rue Victoire, as would Ann Walker – see Anne Lister Paris Apartments.
A proposal: a statue of Anne Lister atop the Vendôme Column!
UPDATE (2021-04-01): The incomparable Helen Childers has come through with the transcription – Anne does make it to the top (176 steps!) ~ 4 1/2 years later, 25 Feb 1825*! And with a bonus weather report!
Sauntered along the rue Castiglione (looking at the books, en passant, as usual to the Place Vendôme – my billet d’admission to all the public works in Paris (lent me by Mme. Galvani) procured me immediate entrance into the column – the ascent (176 steps) narrow and quite dark – the concierge gave me a little wax-light in a lantern, and I mounted alone – 6 minutes ascending and the same descending, and remained 20 minutes at the top – a magnificent view of Paris, tho’ a little spoilt by haziness in the east – I ought to have this view again – I hardly felt it so cold as today – very frosty – and very cold at the top of the column, or I should have staid with my map in my hand longer – sauntered along the rue neuve des Augustins, and rue des colonnes to the magnificent new Bourse – my billet could not then admit me – only shew from 10 to 4 (every day) – stood gazing some time then walked leisurely down the rue notre dame des Victoires… (Courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/8/0130)
* On a bitter sweet note, Ann Walker would die on this day 29 years in the future (1854) – see The Last Days of Ann Walker. With prayers and love from one tower to another.