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Le Matrimoine Parisien – Discover the City’s Female Cultural Heritage

Matrimoine Map

Le Matrimoine Parisien is a student project that lists women’s cultural creations in the city of Paris on an interactive map. I thought this was such a great project that I wanted to be able to share it with all of the Secrets of Paris readers!

As the background information, instructions on using the map, and information about the creators is just as important as the map itself, I have translated the entirely of the text into English here as a reference for those of you who can’t easily translate the French yourselves. The links are all direct to the original website. Enjoy, and please share, like and follow these wonderful artists on the Matrimoine Parisien FB and Twitter accounts! – Heather

Translation note: “patrimony” exists in English language and has the same meaning as the French patrimoine (cultural heritage); however “matrimony” is currently defined as “marriage” in standard English dictionaries, so it’s not the same meaning as Matrimoine (see below). To keep the distinction clear, I’ll use the French version of the latter throughout the article.

What is “Matrimoine”?

From the Latin mater (mother), matrimoine refers to the inheritance of mothers. The word is created in the same way as patrimoine (French for “heritage”). Like patrimoine, matrimoine refers to our remembrance of past creations, but focuses on women’s achievements.

Contrary to popular belief, the word isn’t an invention of the feminist movement: it has existed since the Middle Ages! Transformed, forgotten and then erased, the notion of matrimoine has resurfaced in recent decades.

 “For the so-called neologism is not a neologism and the history of its existence followed by that of its erasure reveals a whole program” – Ellen Hertz, “Le Matrimoine”, in Gonseth, Hainard and Kaehr, Le Musée Cannibale, 2002, p 154.

Why talk about matrimoine? A legitimate question since it seems to be common sense that “patrimony” also includes female creations. But in reality, there is a difference in treatment and recognition due to the gender of the creator. This inequality requires particular appreciation of the forgotten part of our heritage.

“Why have there been no great woman artists?” This provocative question from American art historian Linda Nochlin (Artnews, 1971) points to the process of the invisibilization of our matrimoine. This means making female creations “invisible” i.e. not considering them, giving them legitimacy, or taking an interest in these women. While we know there are female artists or women who “make” history, their contributions are minimized.

We see, for example, that art history recognizes too few female artists. They are often relegated to the back of the big male names. The Dora Maar, Lee Miller, and Camille Claudel’s are still often obliterated by the Picasso, Man Ray or Rodin’s.

The cultural world as a whole has become aware of the lack of gender equality in recent years: cinema, comic books, theatre and music are regularly called into question on the subject.

“The image of women in cultural productions mostly oscillates between stereotypes and invisibility.” – Report of the High Council for Equality between Women and Men, January 2018, p3.

The figures confirm this inequality in recognition. The Observatory on Equality between Women and Men in Culture and Communication has shown that in 2011 only 24% of the FRAC (Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain) acquisitions were produced by women. The figure is even lower in 2018, at only 22%. The High Council for Equality also denounces these inequalities in treatment in its January 2018 report. It reveals in particular the high proportion of female art students, which contrasts sharply with the proportion of female artists who receive awards.

Screenshot of the High Council’s report on Equality between Women and Men, January 2018, p3.

How can these inequalities be explained? Several factors are intertwined to explain the invisibility of female artists. Stereotypes, and social and family obligations, weigh on all workers and prevent them from developing their careers.

There is also less interest in female artists in the bodies that make up art and culture, often composed mainly of men. They receive fewer public or private orders, are less commented, studied, purchased or exhibited. This precarious situation discourages many women creators who abandon their careers.

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” – Virginia Woolf

In addition, a lack of documentation leads us to miss creators who are not sufficiently known or unfortunately not identified.

A Map of Women’s Creations

Matrimoine Parisien is an initiative that seeks to contribute to the celebration and documentation of women’s creativity. Consisting of an interactive map, this student project lists the matrimoine present in Paris.

The aim is to create a visual of women’s creative contributions in the city space, i.e. what artists, architects, collectors or female philanthropists have contributed to the urban artistic and cultural landscape. Excluding works held in museums, it only documents places and creations preserved found in the open.

The matrimoine you will find on the map is classified into five categories (architecture, pictorial works, sculptures, workshops, and places of art and culture). Some points include written information about the work and its creator.

Put female names in your city!

Our hope is that this map allows you to identify statues or buildings in your neighborhoods that you did not suspect were created by women. In short, this website makes you aware of matrimoine through a stroll in Paris!

How to Use the Map

Le Matrimoine Parisien is a student project that lists women’s creations in the city of Paris on an interactive map (to access it click here). Here are some instructions to guide you through your visit.

The data you will find on the map are classified into five categories:

  • architectures: created, initiated or financed by women
  • pictorial works: street art, mosaics or any other outdoor mural creations
  • sculptures: in public spaces, on facades or in churches
  • workshops: places of work for painters, sculptors, seamstresses…
  • places of art and culture: places of culture created by women or having worked to promote women’s creativity (galleries, bookstores…)

Each creation is identified by a name and an address allowing you to easily find it. Some points are enriched with a more detailed information introducing you to the object and its creator. You can choose to navigate freely from point to point through the matrimoine de Paris.

You can also target a type of creation by hiding one or more layers (calques). To do this, click on “Voir les calques” on the left of the screen and then tick or uncheck the little eye next to the type of object. Only the points of the selected layer will remain on the map.

To find a list of all the data listed on the map click on “Visualiser les données”, just below the layers. Details of the five types of creations are displayed on the right-hand side of the screen.

In this list you can directly click on one of the titles to access the file of a work. You are now ready to start your virtual walk through the female heritage of Paris! Enjoy your visit!

If you encounter a problem or find an error on a form do not hesitate to contact us (here).

Note on Images: the photographs on the map and credited “Matrimoine Paris” were taken by a member of the team as part of our student project. They benefit from the rights authorised by the Intellectual Property Code (article L122-5 paragraph 11). These images are not reusable.

Who Are We?

Le Matrimoine Parisien is a project initiated by seven Master 2 students at the Ecole du Louvre, as part of a seminar on digital tools. It was put online on December 7, 2018 and evolves over time.

Delphine Bourdon: A Master 2 student at the Ecole du Louvre, Delphine specializes in cultural mediation. She discovered feminism through her personal research (readings, podcasts) and became aware of the unequal recognition between female artists and their male peers during her five years of study in art history.

Blanche Cardoner: A Master 2 student in research at the Ecole du Louvre, Blanche has specialized in the history of photography since her first year at school in 2014. She discovered the problems of invisibilization of women in art through a series of courses on women photographers. A committed feminist, this course makes her want to participate in the recognition of matrimoine.

Emma Dechorgnat: A student in a two-year master’s degree in research at the École du Louvre, Emma has always been concerned about the fate of women and their achievements throughout history and in society. Naturally she turned to the question of matrimoine and its promotion.

Lou Desance: A student in Master 2 “Research in Museology” at the École du Louvre, Lou specializes in exhibition techniques in contemporary and non-western arts. It is through the social and anthropological reflections that surround the activity of the exhibition that showed her the need to value the productions of all peoples and all sexes.

Sirine Dutot: Sirine is a master’s student in art history at the Ecole du Louvre, specializing in film history and 16th and 17th century painting. This year, she is conducting research on feminist studies applied to art history. A feminist, she is also particularly concerned about the visibility of women and their works.

Martin Louette: Martin is a Master 2 in Art History at the École du Louvre and specializes in film history.

Raphaëlle Reynaud: Raphaëlle is a Master 2 student at the École du Louvre, an art history course applied to collections, and has always been committed to defending and promoting women artists over the centuries. Also a feminist, the project to map the matrimoine seemed to her to be a useful way to encourage Parisians and tourists to better know or discover the capital.

The project is being continued by Delphine Bourdon, Blanche Cardoner and Sirine Dutot, with the occasional participation of Emma Dechorgnat.

A big merci to the students who created Le Matrimoine Parisien for allowing me to republish this project in English for Secrets of Paris readers. 🙂


HF Ile de France

Ellen Hertz, « Le Matrimoine », in Gonseth, Hainard et Kaehr, Le musée cannibale, 2002, p 153 – 168

Le Matrimoine Culturel on Wikipedia

L’Observatoire de l’égalité entre femmes et hommes dans la culture et la communication 2013 et 2018

Rapport du Haut Conseil à l’Egalité entre les femmes et les hommes, janvier 2018

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