A large space which was occupied by the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul hospital until 2014 is – temporarily – occupied, with official authorizations and encouragements, by a number of social activities. Some of the buildings offer accommodations for needy people, for immigrants… but there is especially a wish to offer a mixed cohabitation with a number of other activities – coexistence between occupants and visitors – most of them with emphasis on culture, ecology…. Here it’s possible to sleep (there are even some camping tents), to work, to shop, to eat and drink, to enjoy yourself… - somehow a follow-up of the message by the man who gave his name to the abandoned hospital – Saint Vincent de Paul, the “Great Apostle of Charity” (see previous posts about him here and here).
In a year or two, this area will be transformed into an “eco-quartier” offering more permanent housing, but a touch of the present temporary activities are supposed to be integrated, the spirit to survive.
The highest level of water supply per capita in Paris was actually reached during the Gallo-Roman centuries (some 250 litres per person per day), then even higher than today (some 200 litres per person per day), but...the Roman aqueducts from the 2nd century were abandoned when new rulers arrived. During the following centuries some "pipelines" from surrounding hills were installed, basically to supply some monasteries and royal castles, but the balance of the water came from the Seine and from wells. The water consumption per capita was extremely low for centuries – some documents mention a yearly bath… (Actually the Vikings had a reputation for cleanliness, they had a weekly bath - the translation of the Nordic word for Saturday is the day of bathing.)
Henry IV wanted to improve the water supply and took several initiatives in this respect. After his assassination in 1610, his widow Marie de’ Medici (mother of Louis XIII and grandmother of Louis XIV) took over the idea of creating a new aqueduct, more or less following the trace of the old, abandoned, Roman one. It was completed in 1623 and is referred to as the “Medici Aqueduct”. The water was brought to a building, from where some natural cleaning and some distribution to different users was organised. This building is still there, “La Maison Fontainier” (see top picture), close neighbour to the Paris Observatory (see previous post here). It was also the home of the person who had the royal charge of water supply (fountains). The family Francine had this office 1623 – 1784.
Here we can see an ancient map of the “Medici Aqueduct” and its approximate route with a starting point at Rungis, just north of the Orly airport.
Just north of the Parc de Montsouris (see previous post here), some recent construction work made parts of the old aqueducts, very close to each other, visible and some parts can now be seen from the street. (Especially the window protecting the Medici one would need to be cleaned.)
The “Medici Aqueduct” had 27 “regards”, small buildings with stairs down to the water level, points of observation and maintenance. It should be noted that the Medici water canals were wide and high enough to allow walking along. Here you can see no. 23 and no. 25. “La Maison Fontainier” has the no. 27.
Under the “Maison de Fontanier” you can still see the 17th century installations. Different basins and canals permitted a distribution, which in the beginning meant basically supplying the royalty (Luxembourg Palace…), some convents …. and a little bit for public fountains.
Until 1845 water just went through, but then a large installation was added, permitting a regulation of the in- and outflow.
These installations are of course today not used for drinking water, but the aqueduct supplied the Medici Fountain (see previous post here) in the Luxembourg Gardens until 1904 and still some “lakes” in the Parc Montsouris.
The Paris water system was completely changed during the 19th century, but that’s another chapter.
Close to “Porte-d’Italie’ in southern Paris you can for a while find a building, originally white, now with a black painted facade full of origami birds. The building has been evacuated and will soon be demolished. “Mademoiselle Maurice” got the opportunity to make the – temporary - largest example of street art in Paris.
This brought me to visit the close-by “Parc Kellerman”. This park with a design from the 1930’s is on a slope between the Boulevard Kellerman and the “Pérephérique”, the Paris ring road.
On the lower parts, as we can see on this 1867 map, the River Bièvre used to flow, now covered.
If the design from the 1930’s can be felt in its higher parts…
… the lower parts are much more idyllic…
… with space for the kids to play…
… and for picnicking, resting, reading, sunbathing…
Some of the old trees are really impressive.
Referring to my recent post about the Dosne-Thiers building - from the windows you have an excellent view of Place Saint-George. You can see the building where the famous courtesan “La Païva” lived for a while before moving to her fantastic mansion on the Champs-Elysées (on which I posted here). Originally (1824) there was a fountain in the middle of the place. It lost its water when the metro line no. 12 was created (1906).
The fountain was replaced in 1911 by a monument (by Deny Peuch) in honour of the illustrator Paul Gavarni (1804-66), who, as many prominent 19th century artists, lived in this then fairly recently exploited area.
The illustrations on the monument refer to Gavarni’s work, which mostly was in a quite caricaturist style. We see some faces, where water is (was?) supposed to spout.
Here we have some examples of Gavarni's illustrations referring to masquerades and carnivals…
… and some with reference to the “lorettes” - young ladies who were some kind of a lower class courtesans – they had to be supported not by one but by several men. They got their nickname from the nearby church Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.
Gavarni’s illustrations were to a large part published in a satirical newspaper, which appeared 1832-1937, “Le Charivari”. This newspaper (as Gavarni himself) had of course a number of difficulties with censorship, fines, prison, lack of money… It had a number of other prominent collaborators like Gustave Doré (as from when he was 15 years old). I show an example where Honoré Daumier and Cham illustrate and refer to Manet’s exhibition of “Olympia”.
Gavarni was his artist name – his real name was Sulpice Guillaume Chevallier. He also made some more “serious” illustrations. Here we can see portraits he made of a young Victor Hugo, of Balzac, of the Goncourt brothers – all friends to him – and also a self-portrait… and a caricature of an older Gavarni made by another friend, Nadar, better known as a photographer.