An imaginary iridescence, taking you back in time...
As if time has stood still, entering the Galerie Vivienne is to return to the romantic charm of Belle-Epoque Paris.
Glass-encased to keep out the weather, heated and lit, the Galerie Vivienne is among the first shopping centres of Paris. Today, it is the most famous and well-preserved of these elegant, iconic Parisian totems to commerce.
With the end of the First Empire came new forms of commerce, inspired by the Orientalist fashions initiated by Bonaparte upon his return from Egypt. Property developers were seduced by the architecture of the covered Arab markets, from where all sorts of different trades sold their wares. Thus they created the first commercial gallery spaces, protecting them from the elements with glass and gas-heating. The first of these new spaces was the Passage des Panoramas in 1816.
The Galerie Vivienne was created by a President of the Chamber of Notaries. In 1823, he bought a property at number 4 on the rue Neuve des Petits Champs and number 5 on the passage des Petits Pères to create his covered walkway, using the architect François-Jean Delannoy. Considering the term ‘passage' as too popular, he preferred to call his a ‘galerie'. First called Marchoux, after himself, it was soon renamed Vivienne.
The contemporary discovery of Pompeii inspired the neo-classical design of the Galerie and thus its ornaments; caduceus of Mercury, anchors and cornucopias adorn the walls. Goddesses and nymphs prance around the rotunda which opens onto the long glass-ceilinged passageway. On the ground, stunning mosaics created by Giandomenico Facchina cement the Galerie Vivienne's reputation as among the most beautiful of its kind in all of Paris.
Cobblers, tailors, drapers and haberdashers and print dealers all flocked to the Galerie ensuring it's commercial success by the end of the Second Empire. By the time François Beaugé opened his spice emporium in 1880, the Galerie had lost its shine as a hub of commerce. Shoppers flocked instead to the Madeleine and the Champs Elysées. By the time Lucien Legrand took over in the early seventies, the Galerie had once more fallen from grace, but a new energy could be felt along its corridors with the arrival of Jean-Paul Gauthier and Yuki Torii in 1986, followed by Nathalie Garçon in the 90's. Today, more than 140 years later, Legrand plays a key role in ensuring this exquisite corridor of remarkable elegance is still alive and thriving.