Honoré 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 in 1850.

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 criminals-Vautrin.

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), 310.



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