Paris is a city renowned for its artistic communities. Images spring to mind of neighbourhoods like Montmartre in the 19th century or Montparnasse in the early 20th century, where art practice evolved through relationships between local people in local spaces. Mapping Paris, a Leverhulme funded digital history project led by Dr Hannah Williams (QMUL), explores the much longer and less familiar history of artistic communities in Paris by tracing them back through the early modern period.

After the founding of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1648, Paris became the centre of the European art world. Artists from the provinces and abroad flocked to the city as it expanded throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Mapping Paris seeks to discover where in this burgeoning artistic city artists chose to live and how artistic communities developed during the early modern period.

Combining digital mapping technologies with archival research, Mapping Paris promises a new look at the art world of early modern Paris. Following an initial research stage retrieving the residential addresses of the hundreds of artists who were members of the Academy between 1675 and 1793, the next stage involves locating this data on georeferenced historical maps of the city. Eventually a website of interactive maps will be launched here – – where students, researchers, and interested users will be able to conduct their own searches of this demographic data .

Yielding crucial new information and harnessing the exciting possibilities of digital humanities for art-historical research, Mapping Paris aims to provide a valuable resource for anyone studying or researching the art and history of early modern Paris. Mapping Paris will be the first project to discover where artistic communities developed in early modern Paris and will offer scope for many subsequent investigations into how these communities worked and the impact they had on artistic sociability and art practice.

This project is funded by an Early Career Fellowship awarded by The Leverhulme Trust and held at Queen Mary University of London. Preliminary stages of the project were funded by a small grant from the OUP’s John Fell Fund and undertaken at the University of Oxford.


Header Image: Turgot’s Plan de Paris (1739) (Wikimedia Commons)