While in Lyon I took a walk to 2 Rue de la Martinière, which is just a block from the Sâone River in the Presqu’île portion of Lyon. I did so on the advice of a walking tour app I had on my iPhone, GPSmyCity (formerly called City Walks). The app suggested that the Fresque des Lyonnaise at that address was a “must see.” (Although, the live mapping function of that app misdirected me to a different building that didn’t look at all like what the app described and depicted. I had to find it using an offline mapping application I also had on my iPhone, Pocket Earth.)
The shape of the building at 2 Rue de la Martinière was quite nondescript. It was pretty much plain, old cuboid. The only significant structural deviation was a slant on part of the roof.
However, that doesn’t begin to describe it. Not even close. Two of the sides of the building, one long and one short, were quite lively. It’s those two sides that are referred to as La Fresque des Lyonnaise (The Lyonnais Fresco).
The Really Unreal Fresque des Lyonnaise
Those two sides of the building were filled with windows and beautiful wrought iron balconies. People were out on all of the balconies and visible behind many of the windows.
The people were clothed in period costumes of a wide variety of periods. They were dressed and posed in a way that suggests a great many professions and activities. A nun was standing contemplatively beside a monk. A waiter was taking an order. A seductively dressed woman stood contemplatively. A man stood beside an old-time projector that was projecting a film on a wall. And on. And on. And on.
The base of the building contained four storefronts running along the wall of the long side. In the middle of that wall was also the main entrance to the building. The door was beautifully arched and framed in stone brick.
In short, despite its pedestrian cuboid shape, it was a beautiful building suggesting a very animated urban presence. It was not. At least, not those two sides of the building.
The name of the attraction should have given it away. It is a fresco, at tromp l’oeil to be precise. (Considering it’s in France, I found it rather convenient for writing this post that our language has adopted the French term tromp l’œil, which Google Translate tells me translates to “optical illusion.”)
At first glance, the windows, balconies and figures appear exceptionally realistic. The wrought iron balconies look three-dimensional, despite only being painted on. The people look as if they could step forward were it not for the fact that doing so would require climbing over the balcony and falling to serious injury or death.
Of course, beyond a quick glance, unless you happen to visit during Halloween or a Mardi Gras—assuming they celebrate either such things there—you’d soon realize that it’s highly unlikely that real people would be casually standing on their balconies and in their apartments in costumes that range in currency from a few centuries ago to modern times. Then again, I live in a bit of a flamboyant neighbourhood of Toronto, so it didn’t seem all that strange to me.
There is an amazing amount happening in la Fresque des Lyonnaise. I have no doubt that if I went back or stared at the pictures I took of it for a while I’d see details that I didn’t notice before.
What do the other two sides of the building look like? I haven’t the faintest idea. I read that the tromp l’oeil was only on the two sides. I was so busy being enthralled by it that it never occurred to me to walk around to the back—or, rather, considering that it must contain the real door, the front—of the building.