- Jean Béraud
- L’Arrivée des midinettes
- signed Jean Béraud. and dated 1901 (lower right)
- oil on panel
Acquired from the above
The seamstresses, dressmakers and apprentices, known as midinettes, played a vital role in the burgeoning worker’s rights movement among women in Paris at the turn of the century. The present work, completed in 1901, surely commemorates their involvement in the labor strike of February of that year, which stemmed from the workshops around the Opéra, Boulevard Haussmann and the Place Vendôme. From the elite dress-making shops of the rue de la Paix, the strike spread rapidly through Sentier and to the crowded sweatshops of Montmartre. The strike had wide appeal and captured the public imagination, as the boisterous striking workers created a festival-like atmosphere in the streets of Paris (Judith Coffin, The Politics of Women’s Work, Princeton, 1996, p. 178). February was a significant time of the year in the fashion industry, when international clothiers came to Paris to see the season’s trends. Tailors, assistants, and apprentices in high end dress shops asserted their rights in the workplace, putting forth their own agenda and demands, such as wage policy, labor legislation, and women’s role in the union. resisting the exploitative culture put forth by those in charge of workshops. Activist and actress Marguerite Durand’s publication, La Fronde, run entirely by women, reported on the strikes almost daily throughout the month of February, encouraging women to join the movement. From across the city Midinettes were called to stand at the podium of the Bourse du Travail, the Parisian labor exchange, and animatedly vow to continue the fight (fig. 1) (Coffin, p. 177).
As a devoted observer of modern life in an ever changing metropolis, it is no surprise that Béraud recorded this historic moment. His midinettes stride confidently, holding up their fashionable skirts to avoid the rain soaked pavement, greeting men with a firm handshake or by accepting an affectionate kiss. Béraud has captured every detail of their colorful chapeaux, piled high with flowers and feathered adornments, as well as distinctive architecture of Garnier’s Opéra, which stands as a timeless symbol of the old city in contrast to the social change brewing below.