13.7.09

Broken chains


In a recent post Olivier talked about the General Dumas. This gave me the idea to return to an open space, a park-like square, called Place du Général Catroux (named after a general who joined Charles de Gaulle in London). On the place, you have the statues of Alexandre Dumas père (the father, the elder) and Alexandre Dumas fils (the son, the younger).
General Dumas was the father of Alexandre Dumas père and the grandfather of Alexandre Dumas fils. I will revert to them further down, but first I must say a few words about the life of General Thomas Alexandre Dumas, which is quite fantastic.
He was born a slave in Haiti, the son of a French nobleman and his slave servant Casette. When he was 8, his father returned to France and sold him, but later regretted it and made him come to France. In the meantime the mother had died. Thomas Alexandre got a reasonable education, enrolled the army. This is when he took the name Dumas (meaning “from the farm”, which was the nickname her mother had had). As we were then around 1789 and as the French Revolution left room for a non-nobleman to become an officer and thanks to his bravery he advanced quickly and was the first black man to become a general in the French Army in 1793. The Austrians nicknamed him “the Black Devil”. Slavery was abandoned in French colonies in 1794, but reinstated in 1802.
General Dumas participated in Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. On his way back he was captured, stayed in prison some three years and got seriously ill. He later refused to participate in an expedition to fight a rebellion at Haiti. That meant the end of his military career and he received no pension. He died in 1806 at the age of 44. His son Alexandre was then 4 years old.
Thanks to his wife, his son and grandson, General Dumas was later granted some recognition. He got a statue erected at this place which was however destroyed by the Nazi occupants during WW II.
So, we can find the statue of Alexandre Dumas père, author of - among tens of novels – “The Three Musketeers”, “The Count of Monte Cristo”... He had a rather complicated life also, but has at least received all the honours and is buried at the Pantheon (see previous post) together with other leading French personalities.
His (illegimate)son, Alexandre Dumas fils, has also his statue here. He’s buried at the Montmartre cemetery (see previous post).
Alexandre Dumas fils is more particularly known as the author of “The Lady of the Camelias” (“Camille”), inspired by his relationship with a courtesan, Marie Duplessis, who died young. Alexandre later adapted his novel to create a play which inspired Verdi’s opera “La Traviata”, first time performed at the Fenice theatre in Venice (see previous posts). Marie Duplessis has also her tomb at the Montmartre cemetery (see previous post).
To replace the destroyed statue of General Dumas, a new sculpture to his honour was installed at this place earlier this year (see also top picture). It symbolises the broken slave chains. So, now, it’s again the place of the “three Dumas”. (In the building you see behind lived Charles Gounod, composer of “Faust”, “Ave Maria”...)
There is a fourth statue on this place, of Sarah Bernhardt, who of course also played the role of “The Lady of the Camelias”. She lived for some time in the building you can see below (with some surprising decorations) in the neighbouring street, rue Fortuny (see previous post). Sarah is buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery (see previous post).
Another link between the personalities here is also that the statue of Alexandre Dumas père was created by Gusatve Doré, who had a love story with Sarah Bernhardt. Gustave was perhaps more known as an engraver and illustrator, including e.g. of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, “Tales of Mother Goose” (“Little Red Riding Hood”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Puss-in-Boats”... later retold by the Brothers Grimm).
Hopefully this picture can give you an idea of how the above personalities were linked to each other.
The Place du Général Catroux is surrounded – including the neighbour streets - by some magnificent mansions (hôtels particuliers). This includes more particularly maybe the “Hôtel Gaillard”, now belonging to the French National Bank (see previous post).
I’m sorry, this was long, but as it was all linked together... This is where you can find the place.

41 comments:

Matritensis said...

Wow!! good post, really interesting
Nice week Peter ;)

Sixpence and a Blue Moon said...

I love the "Broken Chains" sculpture, it's amazing. You put so much thought and work into your post, Peter, thank you! I feel like I just had a great history and art lesson.

A happy and blessed week to you!
xo

Virginia said...

Peter,
Thanks for letting me tag along on the last leg of this fabulous photo shoot. Congratulations on your longest blog post!! As always well done and mind boggling!
V

Karen said...

Your posts are never too long. Beautiful photographs with such detailed descriptions. I'm always learning and adding to my list of places to see. I saw Sarah's grave so next time I want to see the house she lived in.

krystyna said...

That's a great post, Peter!
Thank you for this biography - fascinating!
Really I didn't know about the father of Dumas line.

Have a good day!

Thérèse said...

I very much enjoyed my history lesson of the day! Bravo.

Neva said...

What a lot of history.....very interesting...I like the pipes!

James said...

Very interesting post. I like how you find these wonderful places then share them in great detail.

Shionge said...

I've just attended an interesting history lesson, thanks to you Peter. So rich in culture :D

Olivier said...

merci pour le post (un vrai cour d'histoire), j'adore les chaines brisées, c'est une tres bonne idée en hommage au "pére" dumas.

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Thanks for the pictures and the history! Very informative!

alice said...

Tout est plus clair désormais dans cette histoire familiale un peu compliquée...

SusuPetal said...

You're a walking historic, Peter, thanks for the walk and all this information, once again!

Cergie said...

Quel post ! Digne des "trois mousquetaires", "le vicomte de Bragelonne", "dix ans après", "vingt ans après" réunis ! Et toi tu n'as pas (souvent) de nègre pour t'aider !
J'adore Dumas (le fils et père), j'ai toujours adoré, j'ai même lu "la guerre des femems " l'inédit paru il y a peu...

hpy said...

Très complet, très intéressant. Grâce à toi je mourrai moins ignorante!

Butler and Bagman said...

I think Paris should pay you for increasing tourism! The chain sculpture is incredible.

Starman said...

If only more blogs could be as informative as yours. Okay, there are a couple more,but not enough.

La Belette Rouge said...

I love you share the connections and showing us all the gorgeous detail. Thank you, Peter.

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite books. You have inspired me to add the Gérard Depardieu version of the film to my Netflix cue. Thank you for the inspiration.

ALAIN said...

Je vais dire quelque chose de politiquement incorrect : je trouve que les chaines brisées, elles ressemblaient un peu à des saucisses...

Ash said...

Interesting and informative!

Love the first shot. It screams..."Break free!"

Abe Lincoln said...

I lost count of the different ones and what they did.

ParisBreakfasts said...

Oh at first glance I thought if was a sausage or a pretzel...
I must be hungry :)

Claudia said...

What a pleasure to read! I've said it once and I'll say it again: you should publish a book on Paris. I would certainly take it with me when I next visit :-)

Mona said...

Happy Independence Day Peter!

I Love the three musketeers and Count of Monte Christo!

Wow! I did not know that Red Riding hood was written by a French Writer!

Kate said...

I loved the history that complements the photos. I learned a great deal about the Dumas family, and I thank you for that. Virginia mentioned that your posts are mind boggling. I shall coin a new phrase (I think) when I declare that your posts are mind-blogging!!

Cheryl said...

What a fascinating family! I hate to admit but I never knew there were two authors named Dumas.

The broken chains...an interesting contrast to all the beautiful but elaborate sculptures here. So simple, yet on further thought (considering the history of General Dumas might have had if his father had not had a change of heart) quite moving.

Ruth said...

This is an incredible post. I had never heard about Dumas' father or son, and their histories are fascinating. And then all those connections - remarkable! I have a book Paradise Lost with Dore illustrations. I grew up being quite afraid of doing wrong. :)

Peter said...

Matritiensis:
Glad you appreiciate! :-)

Sixpence:
Yes, a bit of "history"! :-)

Virginia:
Longest yes, probably. ... and you read it all? :-)

Peter said...

Karen:
Let's follow the trace of Sarah togehter! She moved a few times! :-)

Krysytna:
You are certainly not the only one not to know! :-)

Thérèse:
Even during summer holidays and free from school? :-)

Peter said...

Neva:
A little bit of learning every day is good! :-)

James:
Sometimes perhaps too much in detail? :-)

Shionge:
Sometimes I'm perhaps too much ot a teacher (which I never was)? :-)

Peter said...

Olivier:
Merci Olivier, c'est toi qui m'as donné l'idée de faire ce post! :-)

Rakesh:
Yes, a lot of info! :-)

Alice:
C'est bien si tu as tout compris; un peu compliqué! :-)

Peter said...

SusuPetal:
Thanks for reading it all! :-)

Cergie:
La Guerre des Femmes? Il faut que je lis ça! :-)

hpy:
Merci pour ce compliment! :-)

Peter said...

Butler...:
Can you give the message to our mayor, please! :-)

Starman:
Happy if you appreciate! :-)

La Belette...:
Thanks on behalf of Gérard and myself! :-)

Peter said...

Alain:
Très incorrect, en effet! :-)

Ash:
Yes, I think you got the message! :-)

Abe:
You must read it a second time then! :-)

Peter said...

ParisBreakfasts:
I will not tell the artist! (Had no breakfast?):-)

Claudia:
Missing the good connections with the publishers, I'm afraid, so I will just go on blogging! :-)

Mona:
You are not the only one. Perrault created a lot of them and lived some 100 years before the Grimm Borthers! :-)

Peter said...

Kate:
Boggling, blogging, globbing... :-)

Cheryl:
I'm pleased you appreciated and read it all! :-)

Ruth:
There are som tales which are frightening for kids! :-)

Harriet said...

HI Peter,

Just catching up on your blog. Thank you so much for all of this information on the Dumas family. My husband and I just finished watching the Gérard Depardieu Count of Monte Cristo movie - our second time to see it.

GMG said...

Always learning when coming here! Great job!!

Peter said...

Harriet:
A lot to read here! One of my longest posts! :-)

GMG:
I did my best ... not to make more! :-)

Jenifer said...

Yes, the continued debate about what is urban art, what is graffiti, what is tagging! :-)

--
Jenifer
Are you scared to be alone at home need security

Anonymous said...

General Alexandre Dumas,from Santo Domingo, was very loyal to Napoleon and was among the thirty two generals who boarded Napoleon's flagshig "Orient" (that of the doomed battle of Aboukir). When Josephine saw him for the first time, she was astounded by his height for indeed he was extremely tall. Inmediately she decided to play Cupid (who else but Josephine) and he ended marrying one of the ladies of her circle. Their child Alexandre Dumas Jr. grew up surrounded by Imperial splendor. Peter, I love history so much it's such a treat to read your posts. Thank you so much! Maria O. Russell