The Paris-Mediterranean

The Paris-Mediterranean

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Title: Advertising poster for the Mediterranean Express.

Creation date : 1889

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 115 - Width 87.5

Technique and other indications: Colored lithograph

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 05-509311 / 61.18.59F

Advertising poster for the Mediterranean Express.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: January 2012

Historical context

The Mediterranean within reach by rail

If the French Riviera has been a holiday resort for the wealthy since the 18th centurye century, it truly becomes a place of tourism in the middle of the XIXe century. Still reserved for a very small minority made up of the wealthiest classes in France and Europe, it is however attracting more and more people to its hotels, casinos and more or less luxurious villas.

A boom made possible in particular by the development of the steam train, which brings the Mediterranean closer to the major European cities, including London and Paris. In line with the PLM (Paris-Lyon-Marseille) created in 1857, the Compagnie des wagons-lits was created in 1872, before being renamed

International company of sleeping cars and large European expressways in 1884. The French company (of Belgian origin) specializing in luxury trains in sleeping cars for lounges and restaurants can thus offer its future customers a trip on the Mediterranean Express, as evidenced by the advertising poster dating from 1889 here proposed in the study.

Image Analysis

From gray to azure

Mediterranean Express combines a stylized and symbolic representation with practical information. These present in writing the service offered (top), the company offering them (top left), but also the departure and arrival times (center left and bottom), as well as the stations served. The advertisement is therefore intended to be precise, which facilitates the process for buyers and suggests seriousness and performance (speed and comfort mentioned above on the right) of the service.

As this is a lithograph, the delicacy of the line is remarkable, more reminiscent of painting than the drawing traditionally used for this medium and this advertising function. The first small image (top left) represents a French city (see the flag), probably Paris (see the lampposts) of the Belle-Epoque (see the carriage and the clothes of passers-by) battered by winds and rain . It contrasts with the main image, which represents all the elements symbolically linked to the ideal and much sunnier French Riviera. A seafront (reminiscent of the Promenade des Anglais or the Croisette), a luxury hotel, the deep blue sea and controlled vegetation thus depict an idyllic destination. If we recognize the artist’s hand on the two representations, the difference in the treatment of colors and light remains striking and remarkable.


A certain idea of ​​tourism

It was logically through wall advertising, which was also booming in European cities at the end of the 19th century, that the Company intended to seduce potential tourists (French and English here). By deploying its commercial vocation, the image also informs us about the perception and representation then associated with the French Riviera and the "luxury" tourism that it allows.

As such, the "pictorial" and symbolic opposition between Paris and the Mediterranean is eloquent. In a style reminiscent of that of Cézanne or even Corot, the southern city thus dreamed of presents indeed an attractive place. The International company of sleeping cars and large European expressways is therefore aimed at a very affluent audience, offering them a luxury and comfortable service for a luxury resort. The fact that the poster also concerns English people is not trivial either, referring to the tourism and at tourist British, synonymous with class and refined elegance which the delicacy, quality and stylization of the images try to respect.

As to signs here associated with tourism on the coast, they refer to the representation shared at the time (including that of the more modest classes). According to an advertising process on the way to becoming classic, Mediterranean Express helps to anchor them even more in the collective imagination, while relying on them to stimulate envy.

  • Hobbies
  • railway
  • Mediterranean


CORBIN Alain, The Advent of Leisure (1850-1960), Paris, Flammarion, coll. "Champs", 2001. GOUJON Jacques, One hundred years of tourism in France, Paris, éditions du Recherches-Midi, 1990. LAMMING Clive and MARSEILLE Jacques, Le Temps des chemin de fer en France, Paris, Nathan, 1986. PECHEUX Jacques, The Birth of European Rail, Paris, Berger-Levrault, 1970.VAN DIEVOET Ibert, Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Européens, in Belgian Expansion, Brussels, December 1908, n ° XI, p.485 to 489 .

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Le Paris-Méditerranée"

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