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Sunday 1st June
Anna valiantly got up early this morning to walk to the Petit Palais in order to queue up to get us tickets for the exhibition. After minimal domestic chores, Jude and I followed on afterwards taking the road less travelled along the length of Boulevard St Germain. Posh shops and few people. It is Sunday. We pass the Assembée and the crowds start to gather as we cross over Pont de la Concorde.

The opulence of the Petit Palais is mind boggling.

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I was transported back to an age when women wore fine white cotton blouses with hundreds of tiny pleats and lacy trim. They carried fancy parasols and never went out without a hat. And under those cumbersome ankle length skirts were suspenders

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The invention of street lights helped develop Paris as a mecca of night life and naughtiness. But the silent movie of the first striptease involved the removal of layers and layers of petticoats and corsetry and no naked flesh was revealed.

The Grand Palais and the Petit Palais were built especially for the exhibition at a time when Paris had become a magnet for artists all over the world. There was the lure of the salons and an expanding market driven by art dealers such as Ambroise Vollard , painted here by Cezanne

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I was intrigued to read about ‘Les Midinettes” ( Ladies who Lunch?) and the women only dining establishments serving meals at midi at affordable prices. The backdrop for Café Couture.

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The Age of Art Nouveau was launched at the great exhibition of 1900. The guidebook says this represented a rupture with ‘la tradition academique et les styles du passé’. It brought us curves and assymetry in the form of exquisite jewellery, furniture – la chaise de l’amour!

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This exhibition about an exhibition leaves us slightly uneasy. For a country which revolted against the privilege of monarchy, this display of grandeur, of excessive wealth and unbelievable extravagance is hard to stomach. Never the less, the skill and craftsmanship on show leaves us gob smacked.

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