While we are closed, we are able to research some of the works in our collection whose stories have not been told.
And this one, it turns out, has quite a tale to tell. Lurking in our collection as plain 'Street scene' by Leon Lhermitte, we now know that it depicts the junction of the rue St André and the rue de Buci, in Paris. It was commissioned in 1883 for the art magazine Portfolio, where it would have appeared as a print suitable for framing: not a mere reproduction in the magazine itself.
Portfolio was the creation of artist, essayist and critic Philip Hamerton (1834-1894) and was notable for its very high quality reproductions. The wonders of digitization mean that the whole run is available free online thanks to the Internet Archive and the University of Toronto, and from that source comes this note, which accompanied the etching:
To our eyes Baron Haussmann's boulevards simply are Paris but it is useful to be reminded that they also destroyed neighborhoods, forced up rents and changed many people's lives for the worse. By 1883, much of the medieval city would already have gone and so this print is very much a protest against development and a nostalgic tribute to a quainter, more picturesque cityscape
It is worth noting that although Paris has undergone many subsequent transformations, this particular corner of the left bank has not, and these particular streets are in fact largely unchanged: