I have already made a few posts about the « Grand Palais », but I thought I must make another one, covering the present event “La France en Relief” (Jan. 18 – Feb. 17). It takes place under the great nave, the part of the “Grand Palais” which is the most spectacular with its large glass roof.
Maybe first a few pictures to remind you of the beauty of the place.
Exposed are a number of “maps”, landscapes in miniature, in relief, manufactured between 1668 and 1873. They were created basically for defense reasons, to be able to imagine how the enemy could attack and to plan how the French could defend their places and territory. For this reason, most of the miniature landscapes are made of cities and fortresses close to the borders and coasts. They proved to be of some value until the experience of the 1870-71 war against the Prussians when the long reaching artillery made the traditional defense organization void.
During the roughly 200 years, some 260 models were made, about 100 have been saved and 26 are permanently exposed at the “Invalides” (see previous post), but this exhibition, showing 16 of them, is an opportunity to draw the attention to the beauty of the work.
Some of the models are really large, up to 160 m² (abt. 17.000 sq ft) and they show not only the defense installations, but also the surroundings, cities, landscapes… with all its details – buildings, roads, trees…
Some landscapes have been updated, e.g. when new ports were constructed, when the railways arrived… of course of highest importance when it comes to military actions.
Everything is showed in a spectacular way; large mirrors, foot-bridges, telescopes… make it possible to study the models in detail and from all angles. The pictures sometimes get a bit confusing… what is mirrored, what is not?
The central floor is covered by a gigantic map of France, obviously representing it in the middle of the 19th century. People walk around looking for their home place, origins… I took a picture of the central cupola and expected to find the centre of France just under it. I checked and when I came home I added the red centre point, just between my feet. I also found the little village, where we once had a country-house. Not surprisingly, there seems to have been more buildings those times than today.
Google Earth is present, offering today’s way of looking on our landscapes. This is how the Strasbourg Cathedral appears with the two respective systems.