Le Pont au Change (Dark Brown Impression)


Charles Meryon (1821-1868), Le Pont au Change, 1854, etching. Reference: Schneiderman 40, fifth state (of 12). On old laid paper with a Crowned Shield watermark. In very good condition, with full margins, 6 1/8 x 13 1/8, the sheet 11 1/2 x 17 1/4 inches.

A brilliant, rich impression, printed in dark brown ink.

Provenance: Dr. William Pelletier, with his stamp on verso.

From a point of view at water level we can see the Pompe de Notre Dame (the old water pump) beyond the bridge, and the Palais de Justice and Tour de Horloge on the Isle de la Cite at the right. In the water a man, presumably drowning, reaches toward a boat, but those in the boat are turned in the other direction, looking toward the balloon marked Speranza (hope) in the sky. On the bridge a hearse and a parade of mourners walk toward the left, as a group of soldiers at the far left marches toward them.

Meryon made a few changes in the figures and clouds in the next state (the 6th), and removed the balloon in the seventh state; then, in 1859-60 he famously added a flock of huge birds to the sky – this was variously interpreted as the result of the influence of Poe (The Raven), as evidence of Meryon’s mental instability after his stay at the institution Clarenton; and of course there were other possibilities. Indeed, the meanings of the print in its earlier states – the ironies of the conjunction of the balloon Speranza, the drowning man and those turning away from him, and the funereal procession, for example – has been the subject of much speculation as well.

It is however indisputable that in this early state, Le Pont au Change is one of the most dramatic and beautiful of Meryon’s compositions.