I already posted about the Luxembourg Gardens, a long time ago (see here), but passing by the other day, I thought that the Medici Fountain was worth a new and specific post.
It dates from about 1630 and was created on the initiative of Maria de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV, regent of the young Louis XIII (and grandmother of Louis XIV). This was part of the decoration she wanted in the park that surrounded the Medici Palace (today Luxembourg Palace) which was built for her 1623-30. As a Medici, she was of course much influenced by and wanted things to have a resemblance with what she had known in Florence, the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens….
What we today refer to as a fountain, was originally a “grotto” and it had no water basin in front of it. Different modifications took place during the centuries, but the major one, around 1860, when the Haussmannian major city plan modifications took place, including wider streets. The “grotto” had to be moved – some 30 meters (100 ft). On the plan from 1739 we can see where it originally stood and where it stands today.
When the “grotto” was displaced, some major modifications were also made. The beautiful basin was added.
Some statues in bad shape were replaced and especially, what we now see in the middle, a new group of statues, was created (by Auguste Ottin), representing the Cyclope Polyphemus, son of Poseidon (in bronze), discovering the lovers Acis and Galatea (in marble), possibly as a reference to the renaissance period, when this tale obviously was in fashion.
The 17th century composer Lully (and later Haendel) wrote music about the theme.
As the buildings which originally stood behind the grotto had disappeared, something had to be done to the empty back side. Another fountain, which originally stood in the corner of the nearby Rue Vaugirard and Rue du Regard, “Leda and the Swan”, had also to be removed because of the new large streets and avenues and it fitted quite well to the empty back side. So there it is now … in need of some restoration or cleaning.