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Joseph the Carpenter (detail)

Joseph the Carpenter (detail) by Georges de La Tour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The image featured above has little do to with the bourgeois and bourgeoisie, but it is the work of Georges de La Tour (13 March 1593 – 30 January 1652), a French baroque artist who used chiaroscuro, sharp contrasts.

However, the work dates back to the 17th century in France, where our bourgeois is moving to town, a difficult endeavour.  Peasants fleeing the countryside were sometimes asked to pay the Taille for the ten years following their leaving for towns. Moreover, when these peasants arrived in town, many had to provide a financial guarantee to the municipality where they wanted to settle.  This information is available from W. H. Lewis Splendid Century, an online publication. Simply click on Splendid Century.

Reading Chapter VII will also provide you with the following information on Capuchins in the 17th century.

“The attitude of the corps de ville towards the admission of religious orders within the walls was a cautious one, for the establishment of a new religious house raised all sorts of municipal problems. Would the parish priest’s income fall off? Would the revenue of the other houses of religious decline? If the order was a mendicant one, what would be the effect on the town charities? Teaching orders were, however, welcome, and so too were the popular Capuchins, for a curious reason. Fire brigades did not exist before 1699, and, somehow or other, the Capuchins had become expert firefighters; in emergencies, in which the modern Londoner dials “fire,” the seventeenth-century householder sent for the Capuchins. Finally, all towns fought hard, but generally unsuccessfully, to prevent the Jesuits settling in their midst.” [I] 

One reason for moving to a town was tax exemption. One cannot generalize because of discrepancies from town to town, but the bourgeois was often exempt of taxation, the Taille in particular, an onerous tax.

Peasants were trampled on shamelessly, depending on their Seigneur. Again, one cannot generalize, except cautiously.

My best regards to all of you.


[I] W. H. Lewis, The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV (New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1957 [1953]), p. 162.

Joseph the Carpenter, by Georges de la Tour
Joseph the Carpenter by Georges de La Tour
© Micheline Walker
18 June 2014