On my way through the Park Monceau a couple of days ago, a grey and chilly day, I thought I should after all look for some spring signs … and, if you look closely, there seems to be some hope.
This is thus not the best moment to try to illustrate this beautiful park, but if you want to see it a bit greener, you are welcome to visit a post on my previous blog, from May 2007, when I more or less started blogging. But there is more than trees and flowers to see in this park, created during the 18th century as a private park for a member of the Royal family, but “bought” back by the French state in 1852.
To get into the park, you will admire the gates, designed by an architect, Gabriel Davioud (1824-81), who created a lot; the two theatres and the fountain at Place du Chatêlet (see previous post), the Palais du Trocadéro (not there anymore, see previous post), the Saint Michel Fountain (see previous post), not forgetting the little park, close to where I live (see previous posts)… and much more.
The park has a number of – false – old monuments. The arcade around the pond is one of the most popular places for “marriage photos”.
Many private mansions were built around the park during the 19th century. Now they tend to be museums (Nissim de Camondo – see previous post, Cernuschi) or fashionable office buildings.
This is also where you can find one of the (originally 62) remaining lodges where you were supposed to pay taxes in order to bring merchandise into the city of Paris. They were along the Wall of the Farmers-General, which represented the city limits until 1860. You can read more about this in some of my previous posts, e.g. here.
The first ever parachutist (André-Jacques Gamerin) landed in the park, jumping from a balloon in 1797. Da Vinci designed …, but – fortunately - never jumped!
The park is also known for a number of monuments, erected late 19th, early 20th century to commemorate some personalities.
One statue, (by Jacques Froment-Meurice) represents Fréderic Chopin (1810-49), composing “Marche Funèbre” (Funeral March). Below you can listen to it, performed by Valentina Igoshina.
Another statue (by Antoine Mercié, who we also saw represented in the Montmartre Cemetery – see previous post) is of Charles Gounod (1818-93), surrounded by the heroines of some of his operas; Marguerite (Faust), Juliette (Romeo and Juliet), Sapho.
We can listen to Leontyne Price singing Gounod’s version of “Ave Maria” (the melody is superimposed over a prelude by Bach, part of the Well-Tempered Clavier…)
… and Anna Gheorghiu in the role of Juliet.
A third composer is Ambroise Thomas (1811-96), someone I guess most of us have forgotten, but he was much appreciated during his lifetime. The statue is by Alexandre Falguière (1831-1900), a quite successful sculptor, here portrayed by his friend Rodin. Ambroise Thomas wrote some 20 operas; Mignon, Hamlet (starring Christine Nilsson when first performed)… You can still quite often hear excerpts for concert use, but not so often the entire operas, although Hamlet could be heard at the New York Met as late as 2010.
Maybe more for “fun” we can listen to a 12 year old Julie Andrews singing “Je suis Titiania” (from Mignon)…
… and in another version by Maria Callas.
Antoine Mercié also made the statue of Alfred de Musset (1810-57), dramatist, poet, novelist … to a large extent known for a two year love affair with George Sand, preceding Frederic Chopin. He could also draw; you can see a portrait he made of George Sand. Alcoholic, he died quite young,
His most famous theatre play is perhaps Lorenzaccio, with 36 scenes and some 400 actors… It was first played only some 40 years after Musset’s death, in a simplified version, starring Sarah Bernhardt (the poster is by Alfonse Mucha). The leading role has alternatively been played by women and men (Gérard Philippe…).
Another name of someone, who we may have forgotten today, was Edouard Pailleron (1834-99), again much appreciated during his lifetime (monument by L-B Bernstamm), author, member of the French Academy and director of the National Theatre (“La Comédie Française”). John Singer Sargent was a friend of the family and painted all the members.
Interesting is perhaps that the young lady admiring Edouard Pailleron is an actress, Jeanne Samary (1857-90), very popular, but who died early, at 33. She was portrayed several times by Renoir and appears also on his famous “Le déjeuner des canotiers” (Luncheon of the boating party), painted at the “impressionist tavern” La Fournaise on which I previously made a post.
The last monument (by Raoul Verlet) is of another frequent guest at the same tavern, Guy de Maupassant (1850-93). A little text written by him can be found inside the La Fournaise tavern. I think there is no need to say too much here about one of the most loved French authors.
At last, a bit of geography.