Tag Archives: fin-de-sicle Paris

Paris Wanderlust: So Many More Parks . . .

So Many More Parks . . .

Square Gabriel-Pierné

Carolina, the sculpture of a prepubescent girl, is no Lolita. She’s an in-your-face, streetwise being. Smart, defiant, and fearless beyond her years.

Marcello Tommasi, Carolina (1968), 5 Rue de Seine (6e)

The park also features an 1830 statue that once provided water for the Marché-aux-Carmes. It shows the Janus-faced allegories of Commerce and Abundance:

Alexandre Fragonard, Fontaine des Carmes (1830)

Perhaps the young man below is reading about himself reading about himself sitting on an open book . . .

Two female sculptures in Square Adolphe Chérioux: muse and mother

Two contrasting images of women in fin de siècle Paris face each other at Square Adolphe Chérioux: the allegorical muse of history . . .

Émile-François Chatrousse, L’Histoire inscrivant le centenaire (1889)

. . . and a nursing mother of two.

Alphonse-Amédée Cordonnier, Maternité (1899), 260 Rue de Vaugirard (15e)

The Zola-esque image of motherhood, seen through the lens of its time, is perhaps not the sentimentalized vision of mother and children that it might appear at first glance. The nursing mother, appearing exhausted, turns her head away from her children. If she bore the stigma of being a single mother, she would’ve been shunned by society as “immoral,” and she’d be reduced to living in poverty. If she needed to work outside the home — whether she was married or not — she wouldn’t have been able to care for her children or to hire a nursemaid.

It was a dilemma begging for social reform at the turn of the century. Émile Zola, in fact, advocated strongly for charitable nurseries for working mothers.

The allegorical muse, on the other hand, had no such worries.

A place for the rights of children

The bronze sculpture My Sailor Boy (1927) is a good entry into the remarkable life and work of Chana Orloff. The boy, modeled on the artist’s nine-year-old son, resonates with the park’s dedication to children’s rights.

Chana Orloff, Mon Fils Marin (1927) (14e)

There’s a solidity to the boy’s simplified geometrical volumes. If he’s sad, he wears it with dignity.

Place des Droits de l’Enfant was dedicated in 2009 on the 20th anniversary of the International Convention on the Rights of Children. That convention promotes:

the fundamental rights of all children, regardless of their origin, their language, their religion, or their sex.

A reminder of an ideal.

Place Hubert-Monmarché

Against the backdrop of the town hall of the 15th arrondissement stands a statue created by Antoine Bourdelle, depicting his fellow sculptor Carpeaux. Dressed in his artist’s cloak and looking very mustachioed, Carpeaux holds in his left hand a miniature nude female.

Antoine Bourdelle, Carpeaux at Work (1909) (15e)

There’s something dynamic about the surfaces and drapery of Bourdelle’s sculptures:

Square du Clos Feuquières

Volute depicts a female nude twisted into an artistic helix:

Jean Laniau, Volute (15e)

“Volute”: shaped like a scroll or spiral. It can refer to the whorls on a snail’s shell, the carved wooden scroll on a violin, or the curled Ionic capital of a Greek temple. And now, the pose of Laniau’s nude in Square du Clos Feuquières.

Below: blue-green arbors supporting clouds of wisteria past their bloom:

A pergola whose wisteria vines have been trained to braid through its anchors:

Pergola base and mature wisteria vine, admired by a grandfather and his budding horticulturist:

Place Edmond Michelet (opposite Centre Pompidou)

The faceted sculptures below represent Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, architects of Centre Pompidou. These untroubled and disengaged forms of massed planes are the work of Xavier Veilhan, who has created a series of male architects in a similar style. The sculptures rest on an elevated platform high above the pedestrians and buskers in the place.

Square Dalida

Dalida, Italian-French chanteuse born in Egypt, suffered sadness in her life like nobody’s business. A number of friends and lovers committed suicide. She herself, after years of struggling with grief and depression, succumbed to suicide. Her signature song is a cri de coeur: “Je suis malade” (“I’m sick”).

Beloved internationally, Dalida was posthumously granted a quiet space devoted to her memory, in her own beloved Montmartre neighbourhood.

Montmartre (18e)

I like to think that the breast rubbings are gestures of solace, not crass appeals to luck.

Dalida gazes toward Sacré-Cœur in the hazy distance:

Square Béla-Bartók

I’ve felt close to the music of Bartók since childhood, when I learned piano pieces from his Mikrokosmos. Bartók was not only a composer but also an ethnomusicologist, a pioneer in the collection and analysis of folk music in Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Imre Varga, Béla Bartók (gift from City of Budapest in 1982), 26 place de Brazzaville (15e)

His own compositions assimilated the syntax of the folk music that he had recorded. Using what he called his “musical mother tongue,” he created wholly original works with complex harmonies and irregular, sometimes driving, rhythms.

Parc Montsouris

Parc Montsouris was designed by Adolphe Alphand, a prominent landscape gardener for Haussmann’s transformation of Paris. Four underground limestone quarries had to be filled in order to stabilize the park’s terrain.

One of the celebrated black swans of Parc Montsouris stands with one leg on a sun perch:

2 Rue Gazan (14e)

Somehow, the fake log handrails refuse to annoy me.

The métro cuts right through Park Montsouris. To lessen the impact on the park’s aesthetics, a trench was dug for the tracks.

Along the western edge of the park stands a statue of Thomas Paine, major figure of 18th-century European and American Enlightenment. During the 1930s, Americans commissioned the sculpture for placement in Paris.

The timing of the statue’s creation in 1936 was no coincidence. As storm clouds of tyranny threatened Europe, many Americans turned to Paine as a champion of democracy and freedom of thought.

What is surprising is the sculptor selected for the commission: Gutzon Borglum. Earlier, Borglum was involved in creating the shamelessly racist glorification of the Confederacy at Stone Mountain in Georgia. Borglum, an anti-Semite and white supremacist associated with the KKK, sounds like an incongruous choice for the sculpting of Paine. Seems Borglum was also an opportunist.

I like to think of the presence of Helen Keller, an admirer of Thomas Paine, at the unveiling of his sculpture.

On the base of his statue, Paine’s words are inscribed:

Independence is my happiness and I view things as they are without regard to place or person. My country is the world and my religion is to do good.

Place Henri Mondor

A startling statue of Georges Danton, captured mid-harangue, stands on Place Henri Mondor:

Auguste Paris, Georges Danton, commissioned to commemorate the centennial of the 1789 French Revolution. 97 Boulevard St-Germain (6e)

Danton, fierce and controversial figure of the Revolution, rose to power in the fledgling democracy. When the Revolution turned on itself in a bloodbath of violence, Danton himself was condemned to the guillotine.

Place Alphonse Déville

On the monumental pages of this homage to writer François Mauriac is engraved a list of his works.

Haïm Kern, Homage à François Mauriac (1990) (6e)

Place de Breteuil

The marble monument to Louis Pasteur is located within a traffic roundabout. The sculpture obliges by giving interesting views from all sides.

Alexandre Falguière, Monument à la mémoire de Louis Pasteur (1900) (7e, 15e)

Below, two cows and a cowherd testify to Pasteur’s development of an anthrax vaccine for farm animals:

Pasteur learned that cows were infected with anthrax in a field where sheep that had died of the disease had been buried. Pasteur tested the earthworms, which showed the presence of anthrax. He correctly surmised that the earthworms were bringing anthrax from the buried sheep to the surface, where the cows grazed.

Below: the nearby Pasteur Institute, an active research complex with branches the world over. It recently installed the Titan Krios, one of the most powerful electron microscopes in the world. Among a host of worldwide research centers, the Institut Pasteur is studying COVID-19 to develop a vaccine.

Gare de Lyon – Place Louis Armand

The statue of a smiling Chinese man pays homage to the long-neglected contributions of workers recruited from China to provide support for the Allied Powers during World War I. They worked for low wages, often under harsh conditions. Thousands died of ill treatment, injuries from shelling and landmines, and diseases, including the 1918 flu pandemic. The acknowledgement is considered overdue.

Below, two of the four allegorical bas-reliefs on the exterior of Gare de Lyon: Engineering and Steam Power. These Art Nouveau carvings extol the benefits of transportation to industry and commerce. Gare de Lyon opened in 1900, as part of the Paris Exposition.

Next: Canal St-Martin

Camille Martin