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The Baroque Underworld - Decor

The Baroque Underworld


At the petit palais until may 24th

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Why you will love it?

When we think of Rome in the 17th century, there is a good chance that we will be thinking of a splendid city almost beyond reality because of its sheer beauty. But the reality is far from this. The exhibition now held at the Petit Palais, The Baroque Underworld (“Les Bas-Fonds du Baroque”) gives us a chance to discover the other side of the Italian capital, a world of vices and misery. Through 70 paintings of the most famous artists of that period, this is a unique opportunity to witness the dark side of Rome in the 17th century through scenes of crime, violence, prostitution and sorcery. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

Avenue Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris
Line 1 - Champs-Elysées Clémenceau

Wednesday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm
more less
Monday : Closed Tuesday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Wednesday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Thursday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Friday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Saturday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm Sunday : 10:00 am - 18:00 pm
1 May 8 May

Our Insiders' Article


This highly interesting exhibition, which was presented at the Villa Medici before arriving at the Petit Palais, is not about the splendid Rome we all imagine when referring to the Italian capital city in the 17th century. It’s actually the exact opposite! Apart from an impressive reproduction of a Roman palace’s gallery, this exhibition takes us to city’s underworld, a world of rags, alcohol, debauchery, prostitution and crime. All throughout the 9 sections, approximately 70 paintings of baroque grand-masters from the 4 corners of Europe are exposed. Ready for more details?

Sections 1 - 7

After a very quick introduction and a reminder of how 17th century Rome is generally described, the underworld starts. Small halls, each with a special topic, depict the true underground world. From Bacchus, the god of wine, freedom and creative inspiration to the filth of Rome, by way of witchcraft, vices and violence, all these dark realities are brought to light magnificently by the talented painters. You will witness scenes of crimes, prostitution and even characters insulting the viewers! Have you ever been insulted but a painting where a character gives you the old equivalent of the middle finger? While one painting with an extraordinary beautiful background shows prostitution in the foreground, another painting catches a man urinating on old roman ruins.

Sections 8 & 9

After an incursion in the central hall again, the copy of a roman palace with reproductions of classic antique sculptures, you will once again be thrown in the underworld, but this time, in a stage design imitating the interior of a royal roman house. Here, you will discover portraits of the people representing this underworld: beggars, thieves, bohemians and prostitutes. They might be rejected with society, but don’t you see a light of wisdom and philosophy in their eyes? The last hall marks the end of this underground feast, and all the characters in the paintings show signs of melancholy. Music and poetry accompany these characters towards better places…


The Baroque Underworld exhibition is quite a short exhibition, but a very interesting and original one, to say the least. The fact that it is a gathering of paintings created by the 17th century most notorious, talented and prolific painters makes it unique and a must see. These painters (Manfredi, Lorrain, de Ribera, van Laer, de Boulogne or Bramer, to name a few) had all come to Rome to study classic art and took the time to illustrate their real world and excesses of the 17th century roman society. And how would it feel to be living in the 17th century. You can try to get the answer by getting your picture taken in 17th century costumes at the end of the exhibition.

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