Gare de l'Est, Paris, France
27th August 1855
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A watercolour and bodycolour drawing of Queen Victoria's arrival into Paris. The royal party is travelling by carriage under a temporary triumphal arch erected close to the Rue Le Peletier, at the junction of the Boulevard des Italiens and the Boulevard Montmartre. The surrounding buildings are covered in flags, and soldiers hold back the busy spectators. Signed and dated at lower left: 1855 E Guérard. In August 1855 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spent ten days in Paris, on the invitation of Napoléon III and his wife Eugénie. The historic state visit was intended to celebrate the military alliance between Britain and France in the Crimean War, and followed a visit by the imperial couple to Windsor in April that year. The party arrived at the Gare de Strasbourg (now the Gare de l'Est) from Boulogne, and travelled through the city to Saint-Cloud. They were three hours late arriving into Paris, causing discontentment among the crowds, though none of this is conveyed in this watercolour. The temporary triumphal arch was built by masons, carpenters, joiners and scene painters, and lit by gas lamps. It was described by an onlooker as 'not a temporary structure but a monument intended to stand the wear and tear of ages' (An Englishman in Paris, London 1892, vol. 2, p. 159). Eugène Guérard trained with the painter Paul Delaroche and regularly exhibited at the Salon. He also worked for the newspaper L'Illustration, which published an illustration very similar to this scene on 19 August 1855. The watercolour was commissioned by the Emperor for the album given to Queen Victoria at Christmas 1855, and presumably relied on the earlier printed illustration.