de Balzac was born in Tours in 1799. Like many of his
young protagonists, he set out at a young age to affront
Paris and Parisian society. With exceptions, he spent
the major part of his adult life in Paris and died there
The works that comprise his Comédie humaine-a vast
fresco of 93 novels and stories written between the
years of 1830 and 1846-are a chronicle of life in France
during the Restoration and reign of Louis-Philippe.
A large number of these works are set in Paris. Balzac
conceived his novels and stories to be interlocking;
a same character recurs at different stages of its life
and career in several stories, placed in the foreground
or background according to the situation.
Like this return of characters that become familiar
through repeated sightings, recurrent Parisian locations
form another thread that binds these narratives together.
Parisian streets and landmarks, as they existed at that
time, are everywhere in his novels and stories. They
themselves in fact become characters in his most famous
and representative novels, as in the trilogy Le
Père Goriot (1835), Illusions perdues
(1838) and Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes
(1845). These three works form the core of Balzac's
Parisian novels and introduce such characters as Eugène
de Rastignac, Lucien de Rubempré and the prince of Balzac's
The watercolor, signed V. Manchon-Duchesne, depicts
what claims to be "La chambre de Balzac, rue Tournefort
24." It was painted at the end of Balzac's life when
the author had achieved fame and one could safely romanticize
his early life. This house is reputed to be the "model"
for the famous Maison Vauquer in Le Père Goriot.
The painting is reproduced in André Lagarde et Laurent
Michard, Le XIXe siècle (Paris: Bordas, 1985),