Greenhouses - Jardin des Plantes

When I recently visited the « Jardin des Plantes » to have a look on the newly renovated « Gloriette de Buffon », see preceding post, I also decided, for the first time, to visit the greenhouses – the temperature and the humidity that August day was about the same in- as outside.

The squarer and higher ones were built 1834-36, the architect was Charles Rouault de Fleury (1801-75). The use of steel and glass was of course quite innovative and it may be interesting to notice that these buildings are about 20 years older than the famous Baltard pavilions.

The lower, rounder, pavilions were added about 100 years later (1934-37, architect René-Félix Berger, 1878-1954). All the pavilions were renovated during the years 2005-10.

I’m not going to try to describe which plants you may see, just too many to be mentioned in a “normal” post.  Here are just a few examples of what it all looks like inside.

There are of course a few thousands of plants and species to be found also outside in the park. Here are just two examples.


The "Gloriette de Buffon"

In a post about “Le Jardin des Plantes” some two years ago (see here) I mentioned that the “Gloriette de Buffon” was in bad shape and was in heavy need of restoration. Money was collected and the belvedere is now again in very good shape.

The “Jardin des Plantes” opened to public already during the 17th century and has since of course been considerably modified during the centuries with several museums, a little zoo…. This is my sixth post about  the "Jardin".

The “Gloirette” dates from 1788 (!!!) and stands on the top of a little artificial hill, actually and originally a medieval waste dump – the belvedere was preceded by a wind mill. The “Gloriette” is considered to be one of world’s oldest pure metallic structures (about a century before Eiffel) and was definitely worth being saved.

The design was made by an architect (Edme Verniquet, 1727-1804) and was actually executed by the park’s locksmith. The metal came from the “Great Buffon Forge”, created in 1768 by Count Buffon (Georges-Louis Buffon, 1707-88), who was also a leading naturalist and who become director of the “Jardin”. The belvedere was completed the year of Buffon’s death and it was obvious that the “Gloriette” should be linked to his name.

Buffon’s statue is of course to be found in the park. Buffon is a name that today, at least for a Parisian, makes you rather and spontaneously think of Gianluigi Buffon, considered as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, who just joined the Paris football / soccer team, PSG. (No statue yet.)

The inscription “Horas non numero nisi serenas”, I count only the hours that are serene, can now again be read. This Latin motto can be seen on a number of monuments around the world and is in general linked to a sun dial. On top of the “Gloriette” there used to a mechanism, long since lost, where a magnifying glass and a wick made a bell ring at noon (on a sunny day).

It may be interesting to know that the word “gloriette” has its origin from an old 12th century French word “gloire”, meaning a little room, and is supposed to be a building in a garden on an elevated site, respecting the surroundings.

The “Gloriette” is overlooking a cedar of Lebanon, which was planted here in 1734, 54 years before the construction of the “Gloreitte”.     


Family holidays...

Back from family holidays. This year we didn’t go abroad, but found a house in the south of France, in Provence, not far from Avignon. We stayed in a small village, named Althen-les-Paluds. The house and pool were very nice., Maybe not so much to tell about the village, except that it’s named after an agronomist, Jean Althen (1709-74), born in Persia, who after 15 years in slavery, managed to escape… and he’s finally especially known for having developed the cultivation of madder in France. “Paluds” is an old French word for marsh. I show one picture of a cicada, so typical for the region, and one picture of a red, blood moon. July 27 was the date for the longest lunar eclipse of the century.

We spent most of our time doing “nothing”, but there is so much to see in a short distance within the region, so…

I have already talked about Arles several times (see here)…, about its Roman arena, theatre, aqueduct… about its link to van Gogh… and some other personalities like Frédéric Mistral, Christian Lacroix, Jeanne Calment (the oldest – documented - human being, who died in 1997, 122 years old), the photographer Lucien Clergue… who leads us to the fact that Arles has become some kind of a world capital of photography with the French national school of photography and, since 1970, three yearly months of photo exhibitions, “Les rencontres de la photographie”. Some abandoned railway warehouses and repair shops are under the name of “LUMA Arles” transformed to an Arts Resource Centre (workshops, seminar rooms, exhibition space…) with Frank Gehry as an architect, to open in 2020.

Avignon is of course known as a papal city (14th century), for its 12th century (half) bridge on the Rhone River (and the famous song – “Sur le pont…”), for its festival…     

The beautiful village Les-Baux-de-Provence has some 20 residents – and some 1.5 million visitors per year. The place has been inhabited for some 6.000 years. The fortress was built starting in the 11th century and was the home of the princes of Baux, who controlled the whole of Provence. It became part of France during the Middle Ages – and was in 1642 offered to the Grimaldi family – The Prince of Monaco is still also Marquis of Baux. Bauxite got its name from Baux and was for a long time intensively mined until exhaustion. The “Carrières de Lumières” offers a giant multimedia show, using the walls, floors and ceilings of a giant abandoned quarry, run by the same organisation which now offers a similar show in Paris (see here). At present the show is dedicated to Picasso and some preceding Spanish masters.

Below the village is a valley, referred to as the “Val d’Enfer”, the hell valley… and, without any proof, it has been said, that Dante Alighieri referred to this place in his Divine Comedy.

The regional department Vaucluse got its name from this little village. “Vallis Clausa” in Latin, the closed valley, became Vaucluse, and the village is now called La-Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. La Fontaine, the fountain, because the water of the River Sorgue comes out of an underground spring, with an important flood especially during March-April. The place was the preferred residence of the poet Petrarch during the 14th century … and he has now his museum here.    

Gordes counts among the most beautiful French villages, situated in the Regional Nature Park of Luberon. It has attracted artists like Marc Chagall, Serge Poliakoff, Vasarely… The fountain, which we can see on the little square on the top picture, is referred to already in 1342 and was for long the village’s only water source. This is where we had our lunch … and had not only water to drink.

The Sorgue River, which thus has its source in La-Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, is passing through this charming little town, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The river is divided in a number of branches and the city has a number of small islands, which gave it its name, originally “Insula”. The riverside is full of bars and restaurants, the town hosts galleries and antique shops.

Visiting Pernes-les-Fontaines you can admire the 15th-16th century fortifications, a number of fountains and enjoy some nice eating places.

We did not spend much time in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence this time (have been there before), just a short stop for some refreshments. So, we did not visit the old Roman city of Glanum, nor the Saint-Paul asylum where van Gogh spent a year and produced many of his most famous paintings. We just briefly saw the house where Nostradamus was born, the Hôtel de Sade….  

We had our pool, but there was a wish to try the real sea. So we made it a day at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The place is of course known for the three Marys. In the 15th century one discovered the relics of Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome, who were said to have arrived here from Alexandria, together with Mary Magdalene – the three women supposed to have been the first witnesses to the empty tomb. The town is a pilgrimage destination for the Gypsies, who gather annually for a festival of the dark-skinned Saint Sarah, possibly the servant of the three Marys. The church which holds the relics and the statues of the Marys was built from the 9th to the 12th century. (Well, let’s here forget the versions of Mary Magdalene as married to Jesus, carrying his child… )

A last place… Vaison-la-Romaine, full of Roman ruins, including the two thousand year old bridge, still in use for local traffic between the upper and lower parts of the town. The town became famous in 1992, when a sudden flood reached higher than the bridge we can see on the photo. The upper part of the town is just beautiful… and in the background you can see the 1.912 m (6.300 ft) high Mont Ventoux. Actually, we could see it also from the house we rented.

This was a long post … I will have to take a few days off.    


A break again...

This pool is waiting for us - kids, grand-kids and myself. Time for a blogging break. Back in three (or four) weeks! 😊 


Swedish contemporary art.

There is an inscription to be read on the ceiling, in one of the rooms of the 16th century “hôtel particulier” (town house), “Hôtel de Marle”, in the Marais area. It reads “POST FUNERA FIDUS”, which, if something remains from my Latin lessons, should mean something like “after death, faithful / loyal”.  It seems to be a message to the father of a son who inherited the place. Well, this has actually nothing to do with what I wanted to report about, but... 

Under the beautiful ceiling…

… there is now an art exhibition ongoing – until August 26.  We are in the “Institut Suédois” (Swedish Institute) and the works of some contemporary 30 Swedish artists living in Paris are exhibited.  You can read more about the Swedish Institute here and about the art exhibition and the artists here.

This beautiful building was bought by the Swedish State in 1965, was heavily renovated and is open to public since 1971.  I already wrote about it several times, e.g. here, here and here.

The exhibition opened by a vernissage, July 11, in the presence of almost all the artists. We can see them (top left) standing on the stairs leading to the beautiful garden. The official opening was declared by the Swedish Ambassador, Veronika Wand-Danielsson, and we can see her (top right) together with the exhibition curator Christian Alandente, with the head of the Institute, also Councillor for cultural affairs at the Embassy, Ewa Kumlin, with Kerstin Decroix, representing the unfortunately absent president of the “Association Artisitique Suédoise à Paris” (Riina Ingel) and with the Institute’s art project manager Marion Alluchon.

More than 500 people attended during this beautiful summer evening. Many are members of the “Association Artistique Suédoise à Paris”, others will hopefully join. (Yes, I’m on the board of the association.) The association has been active since 1957 and is there to encourage Swedish artists working and living in France. You can read about it here.   


A statue which survived...

I thought I should say a few words about this modest little square - named after Maurice Gardette, a resistant who was executed by the Nazis in 1941 – and this for two major reasons:

One reason is that this is where you can find one of the few metal sculptures which survived the Nazi occupation. A few have been remade, thanks to saved original plaster versions, but too many are missing. I have already referred to these disappearances several times and I have especially written about one original sculpture, which was replaced by an “apple” (I think this is a scandal, read my posts here). More generally I can also refer to this site.

This sculpture, which for some reason survived, is called “Le Botteleur” (a man binding hay) from 1891 and the artist is Jacques Perrin (1847-1915). You can find another statue by him in Paris, of Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-94), which was among the destroyed ones, but which has been replaced. 

The other reason refers to the Paris slaughterhouses. This square opened in 1872 after the closure of a slaughterhouse in 1867, referred to as the “Abatoirs de Ménilmontant” (and sometimes as the “Abatoirs de Popincourt”). It was one of five slaughterhouses created by Napoleon (yes, him again) in 1810 to replace the completely disorganized way of killing animals, including in the very city centre. These five slaughterhouses were built 1810-18 and were placed outside the then official city borders. Three more were added during the 1840’s. However, they were all closed and replaced by one, big, central one, at “La Villette” (see previous post), which opened officially in 1867 – and closed in 1974.  

The square is just a normal little one, there is a music pavilion (from 1899), a little pond, some space for kids to play… 

Here we can see where you found the slaughterhouse (1830 map) and where you today find the little square.


Green space - Montmartre

I don’t know what finally will become of this little park, in the middle of Montmartre. There is in Paris a “Cité Internationale des Arts” which was created in 1965 and which offers international artists-in-residence programs. Most of their activity takes place in a modern building in the Marais district, but there are also some 35 studios at Montmartre, surrounded by green space, normally not open to public. I visited it some five years ago, when it was exceptionally open to public (see here) for a day or a weekend.

There have been discussions about a need – and a budget - to do something with this area, where today the buildings and the green space would need some “refreshing”. Words like a Paris “Villa Medici” have been mentioned, but….

In the meantime, there have however been some more active openings to the public. There is now an event ongoing (until July 29), referred to as “La Villa Extraordinaire”. You enter via the “Villa Radet”, a 19th century building, built on the corner of the Rue de l’Abreuvoir (“abreuvoir” means a watering place – which a few centuries ago was situated where this building now stands).

This building used to host a number of artists in residence, but it seems now to be transformed to allow exhibitions, installations... This is what we can see today.

Once you have visited this building (and maybe had a glass in the bar), you can reach...

... and have a walk around the green space, where different activities are offered, especially linked to sitting down, maybe have something to eat or drink and you can of course have a glimpse at some of the old buildings, hosting artists.  



Banksy's paint bombs

Banksy – still anonymous - is today probably the most famous of living graffiti artists. Using the stencilling technique his works have often a political, social touch, but mostly with some sense of more or less dark humour. In December 2013, there was a rumour that he had been around in Paris and I wrote about it here – however it was never really confirmed and the few illustrations which were in doubt soon disappeared.

Now it seems that he has really been around in Paris and that he even has confirmed this. He may have illustrated some ten walls. I have so far found six.

The mouse which is riding on the champagne cork is to be found on the northern slopes of Montmartre, Rue Mont Cenis (Paris 18). We can see that someone (who, which organisation?) has protected the champagne bottle by a plastic screen. There is obviously a similar illustration also somewhere in the Marais district.

No protection had been done with this already destroyed design of a young girl hiding a swastika by using a paint bomb. It has been here, Boulevard Ney (Paris 18), only a few days, but is already destroyed by vandals. I stole a picture on the net. This painting is also what you find on the opening page of Banksy’s own site.

A third one refers to J-L David’s painting of Napoleon passing the Alps, but is obviously also touching the subject of wearing or not wearing of niqabs. This one has been protected and you can find it on Avenue de Flandre (Paris 19).

A fourth one was rather impossible to photograph because of the reflecting Plexiglas which is protecting it. Well, I prefer to show a photo I found on the net rather than to see this illustration, a mourning girl, destroyed. It’s to be found on a back door of the Bataclan Theatre, through which a number of people, who were present during the November 2015 attack, managed to escape. (I - of course - blogged about this, e.g. here and here.)

This one, protected, is to be found Rue Maître-Albert (Paris 5) and refers to 1968 and it seems that Banksy, when confirming that he has been present in Paris, also referred to 1968 as the year of the creation, in Paris, of stencil art.   

The last one I have found – so far – has obviously an anti-capitalistic message - a “businessman” in a suit is offering a bone to a dog, obviously after first having used a saw… You can find this one on Rue Victor-Cousin (Paris 5), just round the corner of Place de la Sorbonne.  (It seems to have been protected, but the protection has disappeared.)

The top picture is a little detail of the destroyed painting on Boulevard Ney.