Tag Archives: Emmanuel Frémiet

Paris Wanderlust: Sculptures — Les Animaliers

Paris Wanderlust

Sculptures — Les Animaliers

Early in the 19th century, sculptures of animals depicted without their human “masters” were not considered worthy artistic subjects. Sculptors who specialized in animals were ridiculed by the press and derisively called “animaliers.”

However, important commissions from aristocrats offered respectability to animal sculptures and their creators. Commissions for the 1878 Paris Exposition solidified the reputations of prominent animaliers, who kept the epithet.

Animal sculptures at the 1878 Paris Exposition

Four animal sculptures were commissioned to decorate the 1878 Paris Exposition. They occupied a large fountain in front of the Palais du Tracadéro. Now they’re exhibited near the entrance of the Musée d’Orsay.

Horse with a Harrow

A horse without harness stands proudly, left leg lifted high, looking back at an overturned harrow. The animal, whose muscular body and wild nature the sculptor has emphasized, is decidedly not a beast of burden.

Pierre Louis Rouillard, Cheval à la Herse (1878) (7e)

Young Elephant Caught in a Trap

A panicked baboon screeches as it observes an elephant calf whose foot is caught in a noose.

Emmanuel Frémiet, Jeune Éléphant pris au Piège (1878) (7e)


The Indian rhinoceros sculpture was enormously popular at the 1878 Paris Exposition. Was the woolly rhinoceros perhaps known to the public from cave paintings — at Rouffignac, for example, discovered in the 16th century?

Henri Alfred Jacquemart, Rhinocéros (1878) (7e)

Two Bulls

Two cast iron bulls were also exhibited at the 1878 Paris Exposition. Currently they decorate the entrance to Parc Georges-Brassens (former site of a slaughterhouse).

Isidore Bonheur, Taureau (15e)
Bonheur’s two bulls at their present location at Parc Georges-Brassens

I read somewhere that after the 1878 Paris Exposition, the commissioned animal sculptures were mothballed for safekeeping in a storage area.

So there’s a place in Paris where art sleeps? If so, how can I get there?

Bear nabs thief in Jardin des Plantes

Frémiet, the same animalier who sculpted the trapped elephant calf for the 1878 Paris Exposition, also created the violent Cub Hunter:

Emmanuel Frémiet, Dénicheur d’Oursons (1884), Jardin des Plantes (5e)

The Lion of Belfort

The imperious lion at Place Denfert-Rochereau is a smaller version of the gigantic one in the town of Belfort, commemorating the courage of the residents in staving off the Prussians (1870-1871). The sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi, is best known for designing the colossal Statue of Liberty for New York Harbor.

Frédéric Bartholdi, Lion of Belfort (1880), Place Denfert-Rochereau (14e)

Lion safeguarding universal suffrage

At Place de la République, which celebrates the democratic values of the French Republic, a lion dutifully protects a ballot box.

Léopold Morice, sculptor for Place de la République (1880)

Next — Sculptures: Fantasies & Hybrids

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Tuileries, Plantes, Monceau

Tuileries, Plantes, Monceau

Jardin des Tuileries

Aristide Maillol’s sculptures of female nudes, some of them allegorical: treasures of the Jardin des Tuileries.

Les trois grâces
Monument à Cézanne, 1925
La Nuit (1909)
La Baigneuse drapée (1937)

Gaston Lachaise’s fertility goddess who can also whup your ass.

Gaston Lachaise, Standing Woman (1932)

A Dubuffet masquerader:

Jean Dubuffet, Le Bel costumé (1998)

The Sons of Cain by Paul Landowski:

Paul Landowski, Les Fils de Caïn (1906)

I braved the dust of the Tuileries to check out Statues Die Too, three totemic sculptures in limestone:

Stefan Rinck, Les Statues Meurent Aussi (2017)

The Vowel Tree momentarily fooled me. How will I view it next time?

Giuseppe Penone, Arbre des Voyelles (1999

Jardin des Plantes

Comte de Buffon, French naturalist, greets you at the entrance to the gardens:

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (5e)

Buffon’s chair leg pins down an anguished lion rug:

One of the greenhouses of the Jardin des Plantes:

The flower beds of Jardin des Plantes are groomed by a small army of gardeners who regularly snip spent blooms. A company called Nova Flore Jardin produces new varieties, such as the dahlia below dubbed “French Cancan”:

Not many curves in this botanical garden, just runways of the latest floral fashions.

The sculpture Cub Hunter depicts an enraged mother bear attacking a hunter who has killed one of her cubs. Although the hunter’s knife has found its target, the she-bear is poised to clamp down on his jugular.

Dénicheur d’Oursons (1884) by Emmanuel Frémiet

Outside the zoo, which occupies almost half of the botanical gardens, I observed a raven engaged in earnest conversation with two snowy owls, plotting the great escape.

The Jardin des Plantes is more than just charming new dahlia varieties.

The Gallery of Evolution
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(More on the architecture of the Gallery of Evolution in my upcoming post on Art Nouveau.)

The Gallery displays specimens from its impressive insect collection. Below, the harmless “peanut head bug” evolved eyespots to mimic a creature more ferocious than the benign lunch that it really is. Its monstrous head provides a similar defense. Neither failed to deter the collector.

Below: The green-and-black Malaysian butterfly evolved jagged patterns on its wings to resemble a certain green-and-black Malaysian bird in flight — the butterfly’s insurance against predators seeking insects. Both bird and butterfly are protected because their jagged patterns resemble thorns. Evolutionary mimicry can be complicated . . .

Some pretty grasshoppers:

The Fake Ruins of Parc Monceau

About twenty years before the French Revolution, the green space that’s now Parc Monceau was purchased by Louis Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans.

Louis-Philippe was an aristocrat who embraced some of the ideals of the Enlightenment. On his purchased land, he created in 1778 a public park based on the English model of the “folly”: gardens decorated with structures that imitated architectural “curiosities” from other lands or times. Intended to be amusing and thought provoking, the objects in the duke’s park are sometimes fantastical, sometimes miniature, and often built intentionally as ruins.


A Classical colonnade built around a reflecting pond. The scaffolding suggests that this imitation ruin has itself fallen into ruin.

About ten years after the park was finished, and on the eve of the French Revolution, a new wall was constructed around the city — not for defense purposes, but for the collection of customs taxes by an elite and very wealthy group of “tax farmers.” The park lay just inside the unpopular wall, and a neoclassical rotunda housing customs offices was built along its northern boundary. The upper level was presented to Louis-Philippe as an observation deck, so that he could enjoy an elevated view of his park.

During the French Revolution, the duke adopted the liberal ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité. He fed the poor, renounced his nobility, and joined the Revolutionary Jacobins. He changed his name to Philippe Égalité and opened the doors of his inherited Palais Royal to the public, renaming it “Palais Égalité.” He even voted in favour of executing his cousin, King Louis-Philippe XVI.

But becoming a model citoyen of the new republic couldn’t save him from the infighting and suspicions of Revolutionary factions. Citoyen Égalité was guillotined in 1793.

Next: Jardin du Luxembourg

Camille Martin