Place Aymé, an open space in the backstreets of Montmartre, is home to Le Passe Muraille (The Walker-Through-Walls), one of Paris’ most interesting statues. Frozen in the middle of passing through a wall, this public artwork is based on a character with a tragic tale.
The square is named after Marcel Aymé (1902-67), the author of the 1941 short story of Le Passe Muraille. He spent much of his life living on Rue Norvins in Montmartre, and many of his novels take place in the neighbourhood. The statue was sculpted by Jean Marais in 1989, and sits out the front of Aymé’s house.
The Story of Dutilleul, the Walker-Through-Walls
Dutilleul, who lives in Montmartre, is an office worker in the Department of Registration. He discovers one night that he has the ability to walk through walls. After first seeing a doctor about his curious new condition, he ignored advice to stay active and take medicine. A year later, he started to use his ability to play tricks on a new manager at his office, who was eventually taken to an asylum.
Confident with his powers, he began to rob banks and jewelry shops, signing ‘The Lone Wolf’ in red chalk at the crime scenes. He became notorious for his crimes, even so far as allowing himself to get arrested, so he could taunt his jailers by easily escaping.
Dutilleul began to have an affair with a married woman, sneaking through the walls into her room when her husband was away. One day, he had a headache, and toon two pills he found in his drawer. When he was leaving his lover’s house, the pills began to take effect. He felt resistance from the walls, realising that he had accidentally taken the pills his doctor had given him to cure his power. Halfway through the wall, he lost his power and became stuck forever, as we see him in statue form.
Visiting Le Passe-Muraille
Dutilleul is located in Place Aymé, just off Rue Norvins, in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. It’s a great little detour to make whilst exploring Montmartre.
The statue is a bit larger than life, giving him an imposing look. His left ha d is shiny and polished from people who have tried to pull him out of the wall. It’s a skeletal, hard, bony hand to pose with. Fun fact: the face of Dutilleul is actually modelled after Aymé’s face!