Uncaptioned Headpiece — "Paris" in Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, first published in 1768. Wood-engraving, 5.2 cm high by 8.6 cm wide, top of p. 89. Johannot uses the equestrian statue of Henri IV and the Pont Neuf in the background as metonymies for the sophisticated urban culture of eighteenth-century Paris. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Related Passage

As this is not a work of reasoning, I leave the solution as I found it, and content myself with the truth only of the remark, which is verified in every lane and by-lane of Paris. I was walking down that which leads from the Carousal to the Palais Royal, and observing a little boy in some distress at the side of the gutter which ran down the middle of it, I took hold of his hand and help’d him over. Upon turning up his face to look at him after, I perceived he was about forty. — Never mind, said I, some good body will do as much for me when I am ninety. ["The Dwarf. Paris," page 105]


Johannot sets the scene by underscoring the magnificence of 19th c. Paris's architecturally planned boulevards and public buildings, a trend begun in the late seventeenth century. However, he is not offering an illustration of the passage which the headpiece introduces. Rather, Johannot is deliberately creating an ambience or tone for the sophisticated environment that he English parson and his French servant are entering.

Although Sterne does not use most of these public buildings as backdrops for the action of Sterne's novella, Johannot has elected to show equestrian statue of Henry IV on the Pont Neuf (1618, destroyed 1792, replaced 1818), the city's first stone bridge and the centre of eighteenth commerce. By the end of the seventeenth century, the right bank was occupied by important residential architecture works, including the Louvre, the Place Royale, and the Champs-Élysées. Admittedly, Sterne engages in a little local name-dropping, mentioning but not developing as theatrical sets the Rue St. Pierre, the Hotel de Modene, the Rue de Gueneguault, the Luxembourg Palace, the Façade of the Louvre, the Bastile, and the Chatelet.

The few scenes of significance occur in the streets near the Opéra Comique and at the bookseller's on the Quai de Conti, so that Johnannot seems to have based his incidental illustrations of Paris's public buildings not on Sterne's descriptions, but on 19th c. readers' expectations about Yorick's engagement with the metropolitan culture and famous sights of the French capital. For instance, Sterne merely alludes to the Carousal to the Palais Royal, and utilizes as settings only a few hotels, a barber's and glove-maker's shops, and the Chateau of Versailles and the Opéra Comique, so that we should regard these tourist-oriented drawings as visual complements or textual ornamentations rather than illustrations in the strict sense.

Johannot has chosen his scene with a view to how the Victorian tourist will engage with Paris's famous sites, for not all the buildings have positive associations in this picture. In the Conciergerie, the revolutionary authorities held Queen Marie Antoinette as a prisoner-of-state until her execution on 16 October 1793, little more than a year after the abolition of the French monarchy on 21 September 1792. The Austrian aristocrat met her death on the guillotine on the Place de la Révolution, not far from the Pont Neuf.

Other Architectural Scenes from the 1857 Edition

Above: Johannot's previous illustration of the skyline of eighteenth-century Paris as viewed from the cemetery, uncaptioned. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Above: Johannot's forthcoming illustration of the entrance to the Opéra Comique in "The Dwarf. Paris," uncaptioned.

Above: Johannot's forthcoming illustration of the Palais de Justice on the Île de la Cité, uncaptioned.

Above: Johannot's illustration suggesting Yorick's apprehensions about being incarcerated as an enemy alien or spy, the Bastile, uncaptioned, from "The Captive. Paris."


Sterne, Laurence. A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy. With 100 illustrations by Tony Johannot. London: Willoughby, 1857.

Last modified 23 September 2018