Tag Archives: Isidore Bonheur

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: From Horse Slaughterhouse to Parc Georges-Brassens

From Horse Slaughterhouse to Parc Georges-Brassens

Parc Georges-Brassens is dedicated to the singer-songwriter, who lived nearby. The archway at the entrance announces the site’s former function as a slaughterhouse and meat market:

Parc Georges-Brassens; opened in 1984 (15e)

The meat- and fish-processing complex operated for about 80 years from the 1890s until it closed in 1979.

As architects designed a park on the site, they preserved some of the features of the slaughterhouse, such as the gateway above. The iron-framed market stalls built during the 1890s were also salvaged:

These must have seemed to Parisians worth saving, especially after the debacle of the 1971 destruction of Victor Baltard’s pavilions at Les Halles.

To their credit, the park’s architects also rescued the clock tower and belfry, part of the old auction market:

View from the belfry:

The sculpture below pays homage to the workers, this one shouldering a slab of meat:

Another sculpture memorializes those in the meat industry who lost their lives in World War I:

Below, a water feature in Parc Georges-Brassens. Maybe this underground fountain relates to blood drainage from the slaughterhouse. Or maybe it’s just a water feature.


Terraced artificial rocks for children to clamber on, or for adults to sit and chat.

A public theater in the south-east corner of the park:

1889 sculpture of a donkey pulling a cart (not sure why it’s in the park).

At the main entrance to the park are sculptures of two alpha bulls by 19th-century animalier Isidore Bonheur.

Next: Sculpture Park on the Seine

Camille Martin