Description: In 1853, Louis Napoleon appointed Georges Haussmann as Prefect of the Seine and charged him with modernizing Paris. Haussmann’s massive urban plan eliminated the chaotic meandering of the city’s streets, it introduced uniform facades, and it created the boulevard system that defines the city today. As “Haussmannization” took effect, individual neighborhoods became less sequestered, the social order of Paris changed, and artists, particularly the Impressionists, looked at the city in a whole different light.
When Jean-François Raffaelli painted The Place d’Italie after the Rain in May 1877, Haussmann’s vast renovation of Paris was largely complete, but not entirely, as evidenced by the large mound of dirt on the left side of the composition. Raffaelli, like many Parisians, saw the Place d’Italie as a broad, empty convergence of boulevards without character or history. An intersection in the working-class thirteenth arrondissement, the Place d’Italie was connected to the rest of the city by a horse-drawn omnibus, it was sparsely dotted with shoppers—especially after the rain—and clusters of soldiers maintained order. Haussmann’s plan modernized Paris, but it also brought stricter control over neighborhoods that fostered dissent.