Thomas Jefferson

It’s good to have friends. Blogging has given me many. One of them is of course Virginia from Birmingham, Alabama. She has also been kind enough to recommend a number of her friends, even non-bloggers, to meet me when they visit Paris. One of them is Jeanne, who is teaching French in Birmingham and speaks – and writes - better French and knows more about French history, geography, culture…  than most Frenchmen. Since we met last year, she often gives me ideas and comments about my blogging. She realized that I was tired by my long-lasting flu and I actually told her that I had nothing in reserve and no force to go out preparing for new posts.

So, Jeanne came up with an idea. The other day, she referred to a post I made in 2012 (see here) about a building, neighbour to the Orsay Museum, which originally was built for a Prince Salm-Kyrburg, referred to as the Hôtel de Salm, and later transformed into the Palace of the Legion of Honour.

Jeanne pointed out that I could have mentioned that this building obviously had been some kind of model for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home, a reason why you can find his statue more or less in front of the building and looking toward it. Well, I actually knew about it, but when I made my post in 2012 it was rather about an exhibition of Napoleon’s “Berlin” and I thought then that it was a bit “too much” to tell that story as well. 
So Jeanne suggested that it was now time to talk about Thomas Jefferson and she had the photos of his statue, which I could use, so I didn’t have to go out in the cold with my flu. Well, actually, I had some photos, so the one you see on the top was taken in July 2012, heavily zoomed as you may notice - the Sacré Coeur seems to be quite close.

Here are the photos I took of Hôtel de Salm in 2012…

… and here you can see Jeanne’s photo of the statue. I have enlarged the drawing Jefferson is holding, where you can imagine some kind of draft for the Monticello building, his home in Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson spent the years 1784-1789 in Paris, succeeding Benjamin Franklin as “Minister to France”. The Hôtel de Salm was finished in 1787. Jefferson left Paris just a few weeks after the beginning of the French Revolution of which he was a supporter – except for its more violent aspects.

His statue, which has been there only since 2006, is made by a French sculptor, Jean Cardot, who also made e.g. the statues of Charles de Gaulle, close to the “Grand Palais”, and of Winston Churchill, close to the “Petit Palais”.


Where Picasso painted "Guernica"

Picasso came to Paris for the first time in 1900, at the age of 19. Until 1955 Paris was always somehow his base, although he always moved around a lot, in the beginning back and forth to Spain, later with parallel homes and workshops in the countryside. The last part of his life he lived mainly in the south of France. He died at the age of 91 in 1973.

He changed addresses quite often in Paris, in the beginning because of lack of money, later often according to change of life partner… I have blogged about his most famous Montmartre address (see here), the Bateau Lavoir, where he passed the blue, the rose, the African-influenced, the cubism periods…and also about two addresses in the Montparnasse areas (see here)… and of course about the newly reopened Picasso Museum (see here).

This is about a third address, rue des Grands Augustins. He stayed here for quite a while, 1937-55, including during the WWII years – not making any exhibitions during the Nazi occupation years. I don’t know if it was the actor Jean-Louis Barrault, who had occupied the place with an experimental theatre, or the photographer Dora Maar, who finally indicated the address to Picasso, but he was obviously very happy about the place. Dora Maar became a partner. 

This is where one of Picasso’s most famous paintings was executed. In the beginning of 1937, Picasso had been commissioned by the Spanish Republican government to make a wall painting for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. When he learned about the bombing of Guernica by German and Italian warplanes, he changed his initial plans and started in the beginning of May to make his painting. Dora Maar took photos… Finally he was ready, but a bit too late for the opening of the exhibition.

We must remember that Spain was in a civil war in 1937. It took a lot of violence before Franco managed to take power in 1939. We can see the modest Spanish Republican (against Franco) pavilion, more or less neighbour to the imposing German pavilion during the Fair. The pavilion also showed works by Juan Miro and by Alexander Calder – the Mercury Fountain.

The Guernica painting travelled a lot after the World’s Fair exhibition and later, on Picasso’s request, ended up at MoMA in NYC. Picasso clearly didn’t want his painting to go to Spain before “the restoration of public liberties and democratic institutions”. Finally the painting came to Spain in 1981, eight years after Picasso’s death and six years after Franco’s death. It’s now exposed at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.

It seems that there is a dispute ongoing about the future of this historic building, rue des Grands Augustins – yes, there is a lot more to be said about it. The present owners want to transform it into some kind of luxury hotel… Nothing seems to be decided.          


Continued rest

Since a week or so, suffering from a flu (despite being vaccinated), now basically over, I have somehow not felt the force to work with my blog. However, my sense of duty – posting twice weekly – pushes me to do something. Once more, my walks didn’t bring me further than to “my” park. I sat down on a bench and admired the birds, especially the ones, completely relaxed, sleeping on one leg.  


Tuileries Garden - awaiting spring

My shortest post so far. (A combination of a PC problem and a flu.) 


Behind this door was a theatre...

There are two buildings facing each other, Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie. One of them is quite well known to most of us, the restaurant / café “Le Procope”. It opened around 1686 and is generally considered to be oldest restaurant still in operation in Paris and with a lot of its own history, especially during the revolutionary years.

But this post is rather about the building on the opposite side of the street. 

At that time, official theatre companies and actors were named (designated) by the Royal court. They moved around a lot, but finally found a rather long-lasting place to perform - in this building. They moved in three years after the opening of “Le Procope”, in 1689, after having transformed a “jeu-de-paume” (the predecessor to our modern tennis) court to a theatre and played here until 1770, which means that many works have had their world-première here with authors like Voltaire, Diderot, Beaumarchais… Among the first actors and actresses, who were referred to as the “comédiens ordinaires”, you may mention Armande Béjart, Molière’s widow – Molière was already dead, in 1673. It’s obvious that this part of the street was very much in fashion during a number of decades - actors, authors, intellectuals, nobility… 

What we refer to as the “Comédie Française” had actually been founded by Louis XIV, by merging different “companies” a few years earlier, in 1680, before the opening of this theatre, but it took some time to find a suitable place for performances. As said above, the theatre company remained here until 1770 and after moving around again for a while, they finally settled in a fixed theatre, in 1799, the theatre we know today (although of course remodeled since) at the Palais Royal (see previous posts here).  

So, what can we find of this 1689-1770 working theatre? Not much. The front building has got one or two additional floors since then. What remains of the original façade is a sculpture representing “La Minerve”, executed by Etienne Le Hongre (1628-90), who has also left a number of statues around the Louvre, Versailles… .  

I have searched rather desperately to find information about the theatre, but have been able to find only very little information (I was able to “steal” only one recent artistic drawing of what the theatre may have looked like - see the lower left corner on the below collage), nothing about the when it was demolished… . 

When you open the gate you will find a courtyard. Obviously this is where the theatre once stood. Where the stage curtain once was would correspond to the modern building / façade which obviously dates from 1989, but seems to be completely abandoned. I also understand that the “Comédie Française” used the premises for some time as a storage space. I would be happy to learn more, if someone knows…  



Some odd photos, statues…

Some odd photos, which I have not been able to incorporate in any “real” blogposts.

This is a statue, called “La Seine”. You can find it close to the Pont d’Alma. The sculptor is Gérard Choain ( 1906-88). He obtained the “Grand prix des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris” in 1962 for this one. Gérard Choain has made a number of monuments which you can find in France and abroad, e.g. a monument dedicated to the Mauthausen deported at the Père Lachaise cemetery.

Very close to this statue you can find another one, “A la France, la Belgique reconnaissante, 1914-18” (see also top picture). It has been here since 1923 and is a gift by Belgium in recognition of the Belgian-French friendship during WWI. The sculptor is Isisdor de Rudder (1855-1943). Two ladies representing the two nations face each other, the French one with her Phrygian cap, the national Marianne emblem. The exact address where you find it is Place de la Reine Astrid. Queen Astrid was born as a Swedish princess (Bernadotte) and was later married to the Belgian King, Léopold III. She died accidentally in 1935. She was the mother of the future Kings, Baudouin I and Albert II and grandmother to the present king, Philippe.

A third statue, a bit further away, close to the Pont des Invalides, is named “Le Messager”, (the Messenger), by Ossip Zadkine (1898-1967).  This is a bronze copy of an original wooden sculpture which was placed here to decorate an Exotic Wood pavilion, part of the 1937 Paris International Exposition – when the Palais de Tokyo, the Paris Museum for Modern Art, the present Trocadero installations… were also opened, when Picasso’s Guernica was exhibited at the Spanish pavilion… .

The statue seems to have other names as well – “Le porteur des présents” or “Le navigateur”. I don’t know if it was meant so, but the little ship we can see may refer to the one we can see on the Paris coat of arms, originally the symbol of the 14th century powerful corporate “Marchands de l’eau” with the motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur” (She is tossed by the waves, but does not sink). This corporation, controlling the river traffic, ended up as the Paris municipal representation. 

Here we can see (photos “stolen” from the net) what the German and Soviet pavilions, facing each other, and what the Exotic Wood pavilion (where you can see Zadkine’s sculpture facing the river) looked like during the 1937 event.

Zadkine has a number of statues around Paris, a street name and his own museum. I talked about it in my previous blog, here.

Of course, nothing to do with this, but...

… and to finish this post, I would like to show you a rose, which has resisted the (so far fairly mild) winter. 


The Paris sewer system

You can visit a little part of the Paris sewer system. The entrance is close to Pont d’Alma. You can read more about it here.

Actually what you find today underground is a combination of the sewer system and the double water supply network, drinking and non-drinking water. The same corridors and tunnels are used. All in all there are today 2.400 km (1.500 miles) of tunnels.

Walking around for about an hour, you will notice that the water leaving our buildings and streets is not quite clean. It’s good to know that it’s not going back to the Seine as such, but is brought far away and well cleaned before finally finding its way back to the river, far away downstream.

You will be taught the history of how Paris has taken care of its water supply and sewer system from ancient times until today and you can also see some of the tools in use, or previously used. The different corridors have the corresponding street names indicated. 


Snow... more or less.

There was a little bit of snow in the air last Friday. I took a walk in “my” park, Square des Batignolles.

I was alone… except for the birds of course.

The snow never appeared on the ground or the flowers - only as raindrops.

I could notice all the same that spring is under preparation.