Let's come back and let's turn right in boulevard Saint-Germain and enter at no 130 into Cour du Commerce opened in 1735 between two jeux de paume (palm
game) and joining rue Saint-André des Arts with rue de l'Ancienne Comédie. Before the construction of boulevard Saint-Germain, the passage was opened directly on rue des Cordeliers through a large arched porch. In front of the porch there was Danton's house, located more or less, where is today his statue.
All the area is marked by the Revolutionary period. At no 8, the shop was used by Marat to print his newspaper l'Ami du Peuple (The Friend of the People). In front, at no 9, the good doctor Guillotin was using sheep to refine his prototype of the guillotine.
Per Jean Clair, member of the Académie Française,
Balthus’ painting Passage du Commerce Saint-André is clearly referring to the guillotine, in spite of what looks like a quiet street scene. In the middle there is the back of the painter himself, as a neighbor, with a baguette under his arm and
facing the shop at no 8. Beyond just suggesting the different ages of life, with a closer look at some details, the painting, however, is referring to the guillotine.
For instance, the shop sign is referring to the locksmith at no 4 who provided the first
blade of the guillotine. The small white dog with its head lowered refers to the lamb on which the blade was tried out.
The blade itself is evoked by the small square shape at the front of the shop. The long, narrow and red shape in the middle of the shop refers to the guillotine.
Today the passage is crowded with tourists and terraces of
many restaurants. However, the back entrance of Café Procope, founded in 1684, is worth seeing. The Revolutionary
Cordeliers Club met there and the Phrygian cap was first worn here. Before being a Revolutionary meeting place, it was a literary café. Founded by Francesco Procopio, a Sicilian who first worked at a café at the Saint-Germain fair, the Café
Procope became rapidly a literary Café and continued to be a favorite intellectual centre after he left the business to his son in 1716. Voltaire and Rousseau were regulars, Diderot would have written much of his Encyclopédie there.
the atmosphere and the style
of the place make it worth taking a break. The decoration includes many curiosities like a cocked hat of Napoleon, documents of the Revolutionary period, the table used by Voltaire, ... and you may sit where famous people did on a regular basis.