4: Paris provides momentum

© Bob Denton 2018
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IN THIS CHAPTER:

As we saw above there were several early protagonists active in the early exhibition sector, but for the thirty years between 1798 and 1827 it proved to be Paris that set the agenda for future events. These had their foundation in the 1790s festivals but these were somewhat less of an entertainment and intended more as an initiative to rebuild a disrupted French industrial scene. The events were thus state-controlled expositions, though the nature of the state was changing its composition throughout the period.

Nicolas François de Neufchâteau
Source: Académie française

Nicolas François de Neufchâteau, the Minister of the Interior, believed the state needed to protect and encourage ‘the useful arts’. He appointed Jean Baptiste, marquis d’Aveze-Mazade as Commissioner for the manufacture of gobelins (tapestries), of sèvres (china) and of savonnerie (carpets). Avèze visited these trades’ establishments to find them in a sorry state post-revolution, many of the artisans had been starving for two years and their products had accumulated in their warehouses.

Marquis d’Aveze

The Marquis realised that a stimulus was necessary. He proposed a three-day exhibition, at the Château de Saint-Cloud, presenting these handicrafts and manufactured goods. This was approved and the chateau was filled with products. Many visitors were granted early access and they purchased enough to allow contractors to receive some cash for their efforts.

Château de Saint-Cloud

But, these were turbulent times and the show never formally opened because the originally planned public opening day (18th Fructidor or 4Sep1797) was the day that the Directory, a five-member committee, staged a coup d’état and placarded (or postered) Paris with its decree to expel noblemen. The chateau was promptly annexed by a company of dragoons. The Marquis d’Avèze was one of those expelled, as were many of the patrons and sponsors of the exhibiting businesses.

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