Archive for the ‘Paris sights’ Category


Detail of Chagall’s America Windows

Marc Zakharovich Chagall (born July 1887, Belarus; died March 1985, France), a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin, was an early modernist. We’ve come across his work before (in Paris and in Zurich), and love his bold use of colors in glass, and his “pictures within pictures.” For us, probably the most famous is his America Windows in Chicago at the Art Institute.

Marc Chagall’s America Windows is one of the most loved treasures in the Art Institute’s collection—they are one of our favorites too, although it’s hard to pick favorites in this museum so chock-a-block with masterpieces! They made their debut at the Art Institute in May 1977 and were made more famous less than ten years later when they appeared in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Bit of Background:

Chagall’s Windows were not on show for quite a while as they were undergoing


Detail of America Windows

conservation treatment and archival research. But, they returned in 2010 to a new location as the stunning centerpiece of a new presentation on Chicago’s other modern public art at the east end of the museum’s Arthur Rubloff building (as you go down to the café). Here we can see models and maquettes of some of the important large pieces in the story of Chicago’s modern public art.

It’s interesting that the history of America Windows is interwoven with the history of Chicago and its rich tradition of public art, which continues strongly today.

The roots of this can be traced to 1967, the year Pablo Picasso’s monumental sculpture was unveiled. It was Chicago’s first major installation of the new styles of 20th century modern art (see my post on this here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/chicago-creativity-on-the-streets/ ). It initially inspired controversy, but soon started a cultural resurgence fueled by public and private investment in the arts. One of these included Mark Chagall’s mosaic The Four Seasons installed outside Chase Tower in 1974, which in turn inspired America Windows.


Another detail from America Windows

Because the city was so enthusiastic about his work and the Art Institute gave him great support, Chagall offered to create a set of stained-glass windows for the museum. During the next three years plans were clarified, and Chagall decided that the windows would commemorate America’s bicentennial.

The resulting six-panel work, with three main themes, celebrates the country as a place of cultural and religious freedom, giving details of the arts of music, painting, literature, theater, and dance. They paint a romantic picture of the American Dream, the idea that we can achieve anything we want in this country. Because Chagall admired Chicago and its strong commitment to public art during the 1960s and 1970s, he chose to dedicate the work to the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, a great supporter of public art projects (he died December 1976). The windows were presented with great fanfare at a formal unveiling, hosted by the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute, on May 15, 1977.

The Windows Today:

The Windows are in a superb location now, as they glow softly from the natural light coming in behind them. The colors and the details are beautiful, a story of different religions, arts and parts of American life all intertwined.

The first panel shows the city’s rich history as a hub for rhythm and blues. Note people playing instruments, plus floating guitars and fiddles, all in glowing blue panes. The windows are done cathedral-style, a perfect way to show the spirituality of Blues music.


First panel

The second panel depicts the unity and peace within the city’s many neighborhoods. Note the giant dove, a symbol of peace. This panel is also a prayer for the city. When Mayor Richard J. Daley died in December1976, many people were in mourning. The figure on the left of the pane lights a candle in remembrance of the late, great mayor.


Second panel

Panel three shows the importance of religious freedom in the USA. Note the immigrants of different backgrounds, an angel-like figure, a menorah, and rose window. Chagall was Jewish but worked extensively with cathedral windows and was comfortable referring to Christianity and Judaism. It’s also important, as most American citizens have come from a family of immigrants. Something the current Administration needs to take heed of!!


Panel 3


Opera Garnier is a gorgeous setting for Chagall’s ceiling

Another Chagall masterpiece we’ve seen and photographed is in Paris at the neo-Baroque Opera Garnier; the magnificent ceiling in the main auditorium. It was unveiled in 1964. It looks beautiful there, even though his design is way more modern that the setting it is in. Somehow, we think the older (and very sumptuous and ornate) and the new meld very well and apparently the public love it today. Chagall divided the ceiling into color zones that he filled with landscapes and figures commemorating the composers, actors and dancers of opera and ballet.



Angels on pillars, angels on the ceiling


Chagall ceiling at Opera Garnier


Chagall at Fraumunster Church Zurich–first 4 window-panels of 5

We also saw some of Chagall’s work in the heart of old Zurich at the Fraumunster Church, built on the remains of an abbey built in 853. The choir of the abbey has 5 large stained-glass windows designed by Chagall and installed in 1970. They all depict a Christian story. Stunning.

The first panel in red/orange depicts Elijah’s


Last 4 window-panels

ascent to heaven. The second panel in blue shows Jacob’s combat and dreams of heaven. The middle (third) panel in green depicts various scenes from Christ’s life. The fourth panel in yellow shows Zion with an angel trumpeting the end of the world. The last (fifth) panel in blue depicts Law, with Moses looking down on the suffering of the people.


Middle 3 window-panels

We look forward to tracking down more of Chagall’s work in the future. But, in the meantime, we are happy that Chicago and its history of public art can boast one of his major works.


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Some of the painted fragments of the Berlin Wall

Some of the painted fragments of the Berlin Wall

artsignSymbol of a  History Theme

We have just returned from an extended trip around much of Eastern Europe. Besides sampling the foods and wines, and enjoying the usual sightseeing attractions, we followed a common historical thread: all of these places have been affected in one way or another by multiple invasions and wars on their soil.

The Romans were one of the first to occupy these lands, and later the Mongols swept through. Some, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, were occupied for more than 400 years by the Ottomans, which has shaped that region’s modern history, with, for example, the comparatively recent Srebrenica Massacre.

Many places were ruled for a long time by the Hapsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some were touched briefly by France and Napoleon Bonaparte.

One of the painted cars---a good symbol of freedom

One of the painted cars—a good symbol of freedom

Car and wall paintings

Car and wall paintings

More recently, the Balkan region was much affected by the First World War, and a chain of events from that and the Second World War led to the creation of Yugoslavia, with Tito’s version of Communism. The death of Tito and the breakup of Yugoslavia led to some horrendous wars and massacres.

The more northerly countries in the region, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, suffered in World War 2 under the Nazis and then under Communism—eventually leading to revolts and revolutions to gain their independence.

So, it was interesting for us to discover a small outdoor exhibition in Paris, where we started the trip. It was in the plaza outside the front of the Gare de l’Est, and was linked to the fall of the Berlin Wall—a symbol of Communist power in East Germany.

The exhibition was the brainchild of Sylvestre Verger, who put it together with the help of Street Art, an international urban artistic movement. They got together 30 fragments of the Berlin Wall, and this is a new collection that pays homage to artists who painted about, and on, the Berlin Wall before its fall. Three of those artists are Christophe-Emmanuel Bouchet, Kiddy Citny and Thierry Noir.


"Chorus 11" (yin yan)

“Chorus 11” (yin yan)

This new collection is called “Art liberté”, celebrating art, the city, the history and liberty. The 30 works are fixed on metal structures that are arranged in two lines in the plaza. Each one has an information board, plus a QR code, and there’s a catalogue plus films of interviews with the artists, available from a caravan-office in the corner. The artists also painted “Trois Trabant”—vehicles that are emblematic of East Germany. It seems to us that being able to paint them however n artist wishes is a very clear symbol of freedom.

All the paintings are very interesting for different reasons. I randomly picked 3 to highlight here.

The first, by Peter Unsicker (1947-) is “Chorus 11”, May 2014 (plaster on concrete). The text says, “X-ray of a yin-yan brain, accumulation of masks, memorial of the absurd.”

"Evasion" in center

“Evasion” in center

"Continental Climate C"

“Continental Climate C”

The next, by Frank Pellegrino is “Evasion”, April 2014 (acrylic on concrete). The text, “all Berlin’s symbols set in aerosol on the penitentiary remains, cuffing the wrist of humanity.

And, finally by Daleast is “Continental Climate C”, April 2014 (acrylic on concrete). The text, “The zeppelin exploded. The liberated birds have taken flight. The city has been sown with new seeds. We are growers of freedom and the harvest is ready.”

We really enjoyed browsing this for a while and it got us pondering on the link between art and freedom—so very true, as in a repressive regime artistic expression is also curbed/limited/repressed.

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Please do walk on the map

Please do walk on the map

In Paris at the Luxembourg Gardens was a fascinating free exhibition, called Fields of Battle—Terres de Paix 14-18, an Anglo-French collaboration (April 4-August 4, 2014).

It was in 2 parts: large photo panels and a huge map mounted onto the ground. The photographer is Michael St Maur Sheil.

Many large photos were posted along the outside garden railings (where they often have picture exhibitions), each with French, English and German explanations. Each panel links past and present, with small black and white photos from WW1 times, or short poems of stories of people. It’s been developed as a gateway to the battlefields and is a different way for people to find out more about WW1. It tries to reveal some of the landscapes of battle and illustrate the stories of some of the people who experienced those battles.

The sub-title of the photographic exhibit is “Forests have a history to share”. The focus was on forests and trees during WW1 and showcases iconic forest battlefield sites, such as Verdun. It’s based, not just on the horrors of war, but on how over time nature has (mostly) healed the battlefields, trenches and other landscapes, creating a link between the modern day and the personal dramas and stories these peaceful landscapes now hide.

All the photos are incredible and thought-provoking, but here are 5 that seemed especially interesting to us, providing information we’d not known before.

barbed wire

First, Corkscrew Picket, Flanders, Belgium. Originally invented in the USA in the late 1880s to keep animals in place, barbed wire became the most common form of obstacle against infantry and was used by all sides in the war. Making this obstacle on the battlefield was dangerous because of the noise of hammering the metal pickets into the ground. In 1915 the Germans invented a metal stake with a corkscrew at the end that could be turned silently to anchor into the ground. Millions were manufactured and farmers still use them today. The tip gave them their name, the “Tir de cochon” or “pig’s tail”.

marshesSecond, Marshes of the River Ancre, Authuille, Somme area. The war-torn landscapes of 1914-18 affected a whole generation of writers, poets, musicians and artists, who left us their haunted memories, including Tolkien. Lieutenant J. R. R. Tolkien was one of thousands of British soldiers crouching in trenches when the battle of the Somme began here on July 1, 1916. The eerie landscape amidst the marshes of the River Ancre was one of the stimuli for his novel “Lord of the Rings”.

Third, Battlefield Burial Site Memorial, Marne. This stark image of a helmet shows how most soldiers’ burials were initially marked on the western front. Later, after the fighting, lone graves, like this one of a French soldier, were moved into national war cemeteries with wooden crosses as grave markers. Later, Germany, France, Belgium, Britain and the USA established war graves commissions to design permanent graveyards, with stone or concrete markers for each soldier, and memorial panels for the missing. Sadly, many hundreds of thousands of soldiers are still unaccounted for. Nearly every lone grave has been transferred to a war cemetery, except this one, now hidden away on private land.


trenchesNext, the Trenches at Beaumont-Hamel, Somme. As part of this war, sides dug in: the trenches that scarred the landscape became one of the ghastly icons of the 20th century.

Lastly, River Izonzo in Slovenia. The now peaceful River Izonzo, called Soca in Slovenia, was the scene of 12 attritional battles between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarian Empire during 1915-18. These campaigns cost both sides over 300,000 lives, literally making the river run like blood. Many people don’t realize that WW1 was not only fought on the Western Front.



My feet are marking multiple battle sites

My feet are marking multiple battle sites

We like photography as a medium and found this a very clever and intellectual way of linking modern photos to a hugely significant event 100 years ago, one that changed the whole world. The modern photos capture the unique beauty of the landscape, in a healing sort of way, as Nature slowly covers up some of the stark scars. It was also neat to learn the origin of some words, like schrapnel and land mines.

The other significant and very informative feature of this exhibition was a giant map mounted onto the ground. Michelin (of map fame since 1889) created a map of the battlefields, memorial sites and countries involved in the conflict. It was in front of the Palais du Luxembourg (now the French Senate). This giant map—16x8m with surrounding information panels— combines geographical, historical and tourism information, which complements the exhibition. People are encouraged to walk on the map, which gives a really visceral understanding of where the conflict was. As we walk between the countries in Europe, it highlights the scale and complexity of the conflict with details of key battlefield locations. What is most amazing is to see and walk on the line depicting the Front Line, the front that didn’t move that much, in France or Belgium. It moved only a very little, for very little gain, great loss of life and terrible loss of resources. In that sense, the map captured how futile WW1 was—in the sense of losing lives and not gaining much actual ground.

The Front Lines---it seems the maximum ground gained was about 30km

The Front Lines—it seems the maximum ground gained was about 30km

Other parts of the world involved in WW1

Other parts of the world involved in WW1

The handrail around the giant map is made from a hundred-year-old beech tree that survived the Battle of Charmes, which took place early in the war. It is a symbol that connects the history of the ravaged forests with events today.



A fun Michelin ad from WW1 times

A fun Michelin ad from WW1 times

On August 4, 2014 this exhibition moved to London and is being exhibited in St James’s Park as Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 14-18 until November 11th. It’s a free street gallery project to reach audiences who might normally not visit a museum or art gallery and to give them a chance to see the battlefields as they are today. After that, it will tour the UK and internationally until 2018, as a way of bringing the Centenary to hundreds of thousands of people.


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The exterior of the Opera is always surrounded by crowds of eager visitors

The exterior of the Opera is always surrounded by crowds of eager visitors

A Fanciful Afternoon at the Opera Garnier

The actual name is Opera National de Paris Palais Garnier, a 1,979-seat opera house, on Boulevard des Cappucines in the 9th arrondissement. It’s one of the icons of Paris, made doubly famous as Gaston Leroux used it as the setting for his 1911 novel The Phantom of the Opera (and its adaptations into films and a popular musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber).

A tour of the Opera House, a monument in its own right, is also something that we’ve somehow managed to miss in all these years, but now we’ve done it! There’s open touring throughout the day, but it’s well worth taking the guided tour (in English at 11:30am and 2:30pm, 13.50 euros/adult) as you learn so much more and realize the significance and details of what you’re looking at—and the whole building is covered in details and symbols from top to bottom. All the ornamentation was symbolic and carefully chosen, at great cost for those days.

A few mannequins give an idea of some of the lovely costumes

A few mannequins give an idea of some of the lovely costumes

If you’re lucky you’ll have Emmanuel as your guide, an expressive young man who’s a walking encyclopedia of information about the Opera that he conveys with passion. It’s one and a half hours of concentrated history and facts.

We enter through the side of the building into the lovely Subscription Foyer, an entrance place where the special subscribers could enter, and designed to make them feel special. Emmanuel points out the writing on the ceiling, done in intricate script so you wouldn’t know if he didn’t tell you, with the dates of the beginning and end of the construction (1861-1875) and the name of the main architect-designer, Charles Garnier.

Our guide. Emmanuel, explains about the mechanisms of the stage operation

Our guide. Emmanuel, explains about the mechanisms of the stage operation

The whole tour is chock-full of details like this—-what the materials are (lots of onyx); what the statues represent and why; the same for the paintings and frescoes. Many are allegorical and related to Greek gods and myths, especially Apollo and lots of lyres. Emmanuel peppers the tour with stats—cost, how many workers, how many performances a year, size of stage etc. It’s all too much to take in actually, but we do get a good sense of the size and grandeur of this opera building. It was built to impress and dazzle and I’m sure it would be hard to find anyone who isn’t totally dazzled and impressed by it. Almost everything is huge, grandiose and gorgeous, shining and colorful, with gold or goldleaf in abundance.

We sit in the sumptuous orchestra for a while and marvel at the Chagall ceiling, which is not in context with anything else there, so it’s different. But then, so was the whole theater at the time it was built. The curtain rises to show the first set for the final production of Hippolyte and Aricie (by Jean-Philippe Rameau). Magic. We hear stories about Napoleon 111’s box (which he never used) and the phantom’s box (Number 5, next to the royal one), and stories of the phantom—-based on some true events (like a chandelier falling down), and the existence of an actual lake way below. Hence, the “Phantom of the Opera”. Sitting here, in this fanciful place where magic happens in each performance, one can almost believe there might be a phantom, where the unreal becomes real briefly, where stories come alive.

Part of the Chagall ceiling in the actual theatre

Part of the Chagall ceiling in the actual theatre

Emmanuel explains how the subscription system has changed and now the French government puts in a lot of money. Subscribers and patrons were allowed to interact with the dancers, but that was stopped in the 1930s.

This opera focuses on dance now, while the Bastille Opera (which opened in 1989) does the operas, plus the really big ballets. They try to balance the old and the new, traditional and contemporary.

Emmanuel talks knowledgeably about the writers and the composers and who did what for the inauguration of the Opera. We wander up the magnificent Grand Staircase, through multiple galleries—one of which is like a miniature Versailles without the mirrors—onto the outside gallery with its view down to the Louvre; that avenue was newly created at that time just for that view and for people to be able to walk or ride up to the Opera. And everywhere we marvel, our eyes out on stalks. Some people may say it’s all over the top rather but sometimes fairy tales and fantasy do have a place in our lives, sometimes beauty just for beauty’s sake is okay.

Emmanuel points out details in this gorgeous gallery

Emmanuel points out details in this gorgeous gallery

All the people in our group, except for just one negative guy, were very excited to see and hear all this, and thought it was great.

This is a perfect activity for any afternoon, but especially a rainy one (as we had).

It’s well worth buying the small Opera booklet for 7 euros for extra information.

Or go to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_Garnier



Viv on balcony of main hall

Viv on balcony of main hall

Details on just one wall

Details on just one wall

Vaulted ceiling in the Subscription Hall

Vaulted ceiling in the Subscription Hall

Amazing details on a pillar----they are all ornately decorated

Amazing details on a pillar—-they are all ornately decorated

The main hall

The main hall

Details of the sumptuous gallery

Details of the sumptuous gallery

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One of the older, framed posters for the festival, found in many local wine bars

La Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre, annual in October

Unfortunately, we were not there for this year’s festival, which has just taken place (October 10-14, 2012), but I heard that it was a lot of fun—which I can imagine, as we’ve been in Montmartre in virtually every other month of the year.

As the air gets crisper, the days shorter, and bursts of color in the trees turn brilliant autumn hues, Paris reveals another of her many faces: Paris is a big city, a famous city, a historical city, a city full of icons, but Paris also has vineyards. Yes, vineyards, right in the city! There are vineyards on the outskirts of other cities like Vienna and Bordeaux, for example, but the Clos Montmartre is more central and unexpected. It’s Paris’s secret vineyard.

The vineyard in late summer. Note an official, in the traditional red and black, showing a group the vineyard

The vineyard in late autumn

Le Lapin Agile (the Agile Rabbit) on a corner near the vineyard

Up on the hill of Montmartre on the west side of the basilica of Sacre Coeur, down rue Cortot, past the Musée de Montmartre and into the rue des Saules, you will find a small, neat vineyard, its edge opposite the famous bar/cabaret Le Lapin Agile, and the restaurant Maison Rose. Between the 2,000 or so vines of gamay and pinot noir grapes are neat strips of turf with lavender bushes or other flowers planted at the ends of the rows. The vineyard covers around 1,556 sq meters and every October a special five-day festival celebrates the harvesting of those grapes. It is on a steep slope and is surrounded by houses, with buses chugging past, so may seem out of place. But, having vines and vineyards in this part of Paris was always part of the landscape and traditions.

The Maison Rose, also nearby

Vines were introduced to the Paris region by the Romans, and vineyards stretched to the slopes of the Butte Montmartre as late as the mid-19th century. But, by the early 20th century there were basically no vines left, as they were largely wiped out by the phylloxera outbreak in the 1880s. In 1933, a group of local artists, led by Francis Poulbot, wanted to block a real estate development where the vines had been, an area that had become rather a waste land. So they got together and petitioned the city of Paris to grant them the land so they could replant the vines, and the Clos Montmartre was renewed. It is now funded by the Mairie de Paris. Vines trump real estate development in France apparently!

Some of the older framed posters of the festival in a local wine bar

Montmartre is unique because of the artistic life and culture that has existed there for so long—and continues to do so—but is also special because of the wine. Every year more than 1000 bottles of red wine are produced, called Clos Montmartre with most of the labels designed by local artists. After the grapes are harvested they are pressed in the basement of the 18th arrondissement’s Mairie —-where else is that possible? Most of the wine is auctioned and all proceeds of the special bottling go to local charities.

Clos Montmartre plaque

During the festival it’s possible to visit the sloping vineyard (the rest of the year by appointment only with the Montmartre Tourist Office). Each year the festival has a different theme and two famous persons are chosen as marraine and parrain (godmother and godfather) to lead the festivities. For example, in 2009, Charles Aznavour was the parrain and Anais the godmother. This year, the marraine was Anggun, and the parrain Jean-Luc Petitrenaud. Montmartre’s bars, cafes and restaurants feature the favorite dishes of the godmother and godfather, supposedly all pairing well with the wine. I heard that this year there were lots of different types of sausages. Many tents are set up and offer tastings of regional wines, cheeses and other products too, and you can visit various boulangers, patissiers, and choclatiers. Children are also always part of the Fete des Vendages, with parades, costumes, balloons etc. Many people dress up in traditional black and red colors, so it’s a very colorful affair too.

So, next October if you are in Paris, head up to Montmartre for a good time and a glass of fine (although expensive) Montmartre wine. The vineyards are on a north-facing slope so exposure to the sun is minimized and the wine is not very full-bodied. But, it’s fruity and has been described as “somewhere between a decent Beaujolais and an Hautes Cotes de Nuit red”.

For more specific details about, and pictures of, this year’s festival (and previous years) go to the official website:


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A Wallace Fountain at Abbesses metro entrance in Montmartre

Paris is a city famous for fountains—many huge, grand and beautiful—but these smaller fountains are unusual and have become iconic of the city. Why are these Wallace Fountains especially interesting? Well, partly because they provide the city with clean drinking water, but also because of how they were built and who provided the funding: not a French person even but a British transplant to the city.

They are named after the English philanthropist—Sir Richard Wallace—who conceived and financed them. Designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg, they are in the form of green cast-iron caryatids in a circle with water coming up in the middle. They are dotted around the city, mainly along the most-frequented sidewalks and park areas and have become as much a symbol of the city as the Eiffel Tower. A great aesthetic success, they are recognized worldwide as one of the symbols of Paris. Curiously, however, in spite of being a respected integral part of the Parisian landscape, they are not classified as “historic monuments”.

The water is fine to drink—I’ve seen police filling their water bottles, school kids slurping, and old Parisiennes, loaded with shopping bags, lean and fill their cups.

Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890) was raised in Paris by his grandmother. He inherited a large fortune from his father in August 1870, plus an apartment in Paris and the chateau of Bagatelle. He was devoted to Paris and remained in his Parisian villa even when the city was besieged during the Franco-Prussian War, and helped the city with many charitable works. For example, he founded a hospital, where he personally welcomed victims of the bombings and distributed supplies, and bought ambulances. Even though he returned to London in 1872, he remained faithful to his adopted nation, and returned to France in 1887, and is buried at Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Of his many contributions to Parisian life, probably the best known today are the fountains that he mainly paid for and that bear his name.

Why fountains?

Many aqueducts had been destroyed during the siege of Paris, and the price of water, already higher than normal, went up considerably. Because of this, most of the poor had to pay for water, and were tempted to just drink cheaper alcohol, leading to a big alcoholism problem. So, the aim of the fountains was to allow people of modest means to have access to drinking water. Even today, when water and hygiene are not a problem for most Parisians, these fountains are often the only sources of free water for the homeless.

So the fountains accomplished Wallace’s philosophy of lending a hand to those in need, but they have also added to the beauty of Paris.

Richard Wallace designed the fountains himself and wanted them to be beautiful as well as useful. The fountains had to meet several strict guidelines: (source, Wikipedia/Wallace Fountains)

“Height: They had to be tall enough to be seen from afar but not so tall as to destroy the harmony of the surrounding landscape.

Form: Both practical to use and pleasing to the eye.

Price: Affordable enough to allow the installation of dozens.

Materials: Resistant to the elements, easy to shape, and simple to maintain.”

The Paris city government decided on the locations of the fountains, most in squares or at the intersection of two roads, to make them easily available to the public. City government also decided on the color and material: dark green to blend in with the trees and parks; and cast iron, which was inexpensive, strong, easy to mold, and a popular material at the time. Wallace conceived four different models, varying in height and motif, and asked Charles-Auguste Lebourg, a sculptor from Nantes whom he already knew, to complete the project.

One of the caryatids on a Wallace Fountain

For the large model, which became the most popular, Lebourg created four caryatids representing kindness, simplicity, charity, and sobriety. Each one is different, by the way she bends her knees and by where her tunic is tucked into her blouse. All are considered works of art today.

These days, there are 67 of the large models, 9 small model fountains, 2 Colonnaded fountains, and one applied model. Most of these fountains still present in the city still work, from 15 March to 15 November. They are turned off in winter because of the risk of freezing affecting the pipes etc. They are repainted every two years and so the green color is always bright and shiny.

Other Wallace fountain are in Nantes, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Toulon and Pau, in France.

We find them outside of France too, in countries such as Switzerland, Canada, UK, Brazil, Mozambique and Spain, for example.


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The Robinier tree in spring

View from the tree, across Square Viviano to Notre Dame

Un Arbre Remarquable (A Remarkable Tree)

Paris’s oldest tree, next to the city’s oldest church, just over the River Seine from what is probably Paris’s most famous sight: the Cathedral of Notre Dame. What a combo!

The tree, in the small pretty Square Viviano, which overlooks Notre Dame on the other side of the river, was already old when the cathedral as we know it today was saved from destruction by the writings of Victor Hugo. Just behind the tree is St-Julien-le Pauvre, a small Romanesque church from the 12th century.

The tree has been designated as an Arbre Remarquable, and it’s easy to see why. In spite of having to be propped up now, it’s still growing and we have to admire its tenacity. This Robinier tree is a pseudo-acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia, L.). It was planted in 1601 by the gardener of King Henri 1V, Jean Robin, who introduced it into France and gave it his name.  It belongs to the Fabaceaefamily, originally from the south-east of the USA.

The robinier tree at Christmas, with Notre Dame lit up behind

When last measured in 2011, it was 11 meters (almost 36 feet) tall with a trunk of 3.85 meters (about 12.5 feet) in circumference.

Entrance to St-Julien-le-Pauvre church, with the top of the robinier just visible behind it, to the left


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