There is nothing here reminding us of Molière any more, but just where (or very close to where) we now, behind "L'Institut de France", find the little Square Gabriel-Pierné, one could in the 17th century find one of the then hundreds of buildings where one played “jeu-de-paume”, the ancestor of today’s tennis. Well, Molière was not a tennis player, but let’s make a small tennis parenthesis:
Jeu-de-paume could be translated palm game. With its origins in France it was originally played without racquets, just the palms of your hands. The word “tennis” obviously is a cross-the-Channel version of the French “tenez” which was the word players used when serving. The scoring system 15, 30, 40 comes probably, or possibly, also from jeu-de-paume. When winning a point, the player had to step back 15 ft, 30 ft.... The word “love” seems to have its origins in the French “l’oeuf” = the egg, and as because an egg is round = 0.
When Jean-Baptiste Poquelin at the age of 21, in 1643, decided to become an actor, joining the Béjart family and creating the “Illustre Théâtre”, the performances took place here in the « Jeux-de-Paume des Mestayers”, a building which has since long disappeared. (We can see Jean-Baptiste’s signature on the act of creation of the theatre company.) Two years later the troop went bankrupt and Jean-Baptiste had to spend a short moment in prison until someone kindly payed the debt. This was probably also the time when, to spare his father of the shame to have an actor in the family, he changed his name to Molière. I’m not telling the rest of Molière’s life here and now … J.
So today there is nothing left to see from Molière’s experiences here. The little square is named after Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937), a composer, conductor and organist.
There is a fountain to be found. It has been brought here from elsewhere in Paris and is designed by A-E Fragonard (1780-1830), son of the more famous Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). There is also a more recent statue, “Carolina”, by Marcello Tommasi (1928-2008)… and an “insect hotel”.
But the most spectacular thing with the visit to the little square is perhaps the view of the backside of “L’Institut de France” – see top picture. We are behind the building - which did not yet exist when Molière played here – on which I have already posted, e.g. here and here.
Just round the corner is another little square, named after Honoré Champion (1846-1913), a publisher. Here we can find statues of two prominent members of the “Age of Enlightenment”, Montesquieu (1689-1755) and Voltaire (1694-1778).