30 Oct 2016

Bat Out of Hell!

Initially Mirabelle's wink to Halloween was to feature a 1952 photograph by talented French photographer Robert Doisneau (1912 -1994), entitled 'Porte de L'Enfer, boulevard de Clichy, Paris 9è arrondissement', L'Enfer meaning Hell/ Inferno. The caped policeman 'flying past' the toothy gothic monster was referred to as hirondelle (swallow) back in the day, in reference to the distinctive cape that policemen wore when out on the beat that made them look like swallows when dashing around.

As a fitting correlation to the Halloween theme, I was prone to view the swallow as a bat defying the gates of Hell; note the policeman's confident - almost defiant - demeanour. L'Enfer cabaret (now defunct) stood in the colourful world-famous artist quarter of Paris, Montmartre.

Taking a closer look at the famed photographer's portfolio, it is easy to feel transported to a world of the spooky and the bizarre and the occult, so I couldn't resist adding on a few more Doisneau pictures that coincidentally capture the Halloween spirit, turning the wink into a long glance. The monochrome shots add to the ambience. Now up to us to solve the mysteries or just go along with their imbued poetry...

Sources: (1) 'Porte de l'Enfer, boulevard de Clichy, Paris 9è arrondissement', photography by Robert Doisneau, 1952, via L'Agence Photo RMN Grand Palais (*). The print is showcased at Centre Pompidou, Paris. (2) Sepia postcard of the Montmartre district of Paris, featuring boulevard de Clichy (Le Ciel et l'Enfer) cabarets, via Pinterest, allegedly dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Both cabarets were avant-garde surrealist themed venues. Le Ciel (meaning Sky/ Heaven) was an artists cabaret with a loose angel theme attached to it, while its flamboyant gothic next-door neighbour L'Enfer (Hell/ Inferno) cabaret erred on the morbid and the macabre. Such like venues were popular in 1880s-1920s Paris. (3-6) Robert Doisneau, photography via Atelier Robert Doisneau. (3) 'Yves Corbassière dans sa voiture à carreaux' (Y.C. in his checkered car), Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, 1948. (4) 'Stricte intimité' (Closest and dearest), Montrouge, 1945. (5) 'Une femme passe' (A lady walks by), Paris, 1945. (6) 'Le pendule' (The pendulum), 1945.

(*) RMN = Réunion Musées Nationaux

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