I’ve told you I love French road signs but it’s not my only passion – I also have thing for shop advertising signs in France!
I don’t think that there is a country in the world that can compete with France for artistic value in this area. In the UK certainly in olden days there were magnificent street signs for chemists, barbers, pawn shops and all sorts but very few survive these days (The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has some wonderful old shop signs).
The demise of the traditional shop sign has not afflicted France I am pleased to report! Shop signs apparently have been in use in France since the 13th Century mostly carved in stone. As the taste for shop signs developed and not everyone had a huge stone mansion to carve, the style evolved to having signs fixed on poles to walls.
By the 15th Century shop signs were fairly commonplace in France and as the wisdom then was (as now) – the bigger the better, there are tales of many ancient signs causing accidents. They would fall or swing in high winds, you can imagine the noise they must have made swaying backward and forward and the proliferation in narrow streets and alleyways cut out the sun.
There are old shop signs everywhere in France, luring you closer to check out the sign and then… the shop. Even new shop signs are often much more attractive, witty, humorous and artistic than their counterparts overseas.
The style is random and varies from words carved into stone on old buildings, to tiled entrances, painted signs on walls and ornate hanging signs over doors – for me it is like a free art exhibition…