Monday 19 July 2010

Postcard of the Day No. 38, Gentlemen of Nantes

The ancient city of Nantes, famous for biscuits and shipbuilding, is the location for today’s expedition into the postcard universe. The sunlight is strong, the shadows are short and three smartly dressed males stride out of the past, one with great self-assurance, the other two are more posed in appearance. Behind them water streams from a complex multi-level fountain crowned by an allegorical figure representing the river Loire. On the far right, a small group of gentlemen of leisure have collected around a stall selling ice cream and sorbets, enjoying much needed relief from the heat of high summer.

The extended facade in the background resembles a painted backdrop and brings a theatrical note to the scene. It is just one instant in the life of the city but no less compelling for that. We are presented with a manufactured spectacle from which any documentary realism that was present in the original photographic image has quietly faded away leaving a poetic reconstruction of the past. A brief look at Street View confirms that the fountain is still present in the Place Royale and the buildings appear little changed. It does seem that the fountain has been repositioned and given the amount of war damage inflicted on Nantes it’s quite likely that substantial rebuilding has taken place.

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