The port of Marseille

The port of Marseille

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Title: The port of Marseille at sunset.

Author : ZIEM Félix (1821 - 1911)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 69.5 - Width 111.5

Technique and other indications: Around 1860.

Storage location: Petit Palais Museum

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bullozsite web

Picture reference: 00-011610 / Inv216

The port of Marseille at sunset.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Publication date: September 2008

Historical context

Marseille, gateway to the new French colonial empire

Around 1860, urbanization linked to industrial growth strengthened. Louis-Philippe's eldest son noticed them during the inaugural ceremony of the Palais Longchamp and encouraged the young Félix Ziem to continue in this direction.

Image Analysis

A port at sunset, the hive falls asleep

Ziem, throughout a work spanning several decades and marrying different styles, has remained fascinated by the landscapes and civilizations of the Mediterranean. In this luminist composition dating from the 1860s, the influences of Turner and Lorrain are perceptible through the importance given to the evening sky and its bluish variations. The lower part relates the slumber of port activity. The moored ships, probably frigates, have gathered along the quay of the port. Beyond the "forest" of masts and rigging with cargo sails, the old town is on an upper floor, dominated by the Saint-Laurent bell tower. Coming from the south quay, a rowboat prepares to approach the strike in the foreground. A man sitting on the shore seems to be enjoying the restored calm. On the left, a steamer enters, passing between Fort Saint-Nicolas, to the south, and Fort Saint-Jean, to the north.


The entry of Marseille into the industrial age

The Second Empire is for the city synonymous with political sleep and economic awakening. The dynamic concerns first the port of which Ziem, in his journal, sketches the cosmopolitan agitation. Free trade treaty (1860), exploitation of the colonial empire, opening of the Suez Canal (1869), the factors combine to trigger the multiplication of trade flows. Exports to Algeria increased by 258% between 1855 and 1874. 512,000 hectoliters of wheat were exported during the famine which struck the Algerian populations in 1867. The opening of the Suez Canal enabled the port of Marseille to extend its commercial area to the Far East. New products were traded such as raw silk, while petroleum appeared in 1863. Its refining took part in the industrial take-off which followed commercial and financial prosperity. Prosperity that wars in foreign theaters do not compromise (Crimea, Italy, China). The Old Port is the first victim of this growth. Around 1860 the activity moved north around the Joliette basin and the docks where commercial and industrial activities could be combined.

  • Marseilles
  • Harbor


Georges DUBY (dir.), Histoire de la France urbaine, volume IV, “The City of the industrial age”, by Maurice AGULHON, Françoise CHOAY, Maurice CRUBELLIER, Yves LEQUIN and Marcel RONCAYOLO, Paris, Le Seuil, 1983, reed .coll. “Points Histoire”, 1998.Pierre GUIRAL and Paul AMARGUIER, Histoire de Marseille, Paris, Éditions Mazarine, 1983. Éric HILD, Study on the drawn work of Félix Ziem, master's thesis in art history, Hyères, 1976. Ferdinand SERVIAN, La Technique de Ziem, Marseille, Marseille Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts, 1912.

To cite this article

Bernard COLOMB, "The port of Marseille"

Video: Marseille, Notre Dame de la Garde to Vieux Port - France - 4K Walking Tour


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