This is one of the later works by Charles Meryon, a 19th century Parisian artist, who in his early years sailed in the South Pacific with the French navy. He was stationed in Akaroa from 1843-46.
Later in Paris he made this print which is one from his 1850 series 'Eaux-fortes sur Paris'. These focused on the local Parisian buildings, bridges and views near where he lived. The dingy crowded areas between Notre Dame and La Montage-Sainte-Genevieve were under threat of demolition. The way he depicted them however was as a set of immensely personal images in which he produced uneasy scenes often charged with an atmosphere of mystery and emotion. A victim of a combination of mental disorders which ruined his career and caused nightmareish hallucinations, he was eventually committed to the asylum at Charenton in 1866.
Rue de Mauvais Garçons conveys this sense of eery foreboding. The small figures give the simple buildings a huge scale and the strong shaft of sunlight throws the darkened windows and doorways into mysterious cavernous spaces. It is state 3 from the third and final etching. Across the top of the plate a verse reads:
What mortal lived
In such a sombre resting-place?
Who hid themselves here
In the night and in the shadow?
Was it virtue
Will you say the crime of
Some vicious spirit.
Ah! indeed, I do not know
If you are curious and want to know,
Go there and look
There is still time.