United States of...

A closer look at my new environment (well, actually already one year has passed since I moved) made me think about all the references to the United States of America located around me -  names of streets and squares, copy of the Liberty Flame, the American Cathedral, statues…

The “Place des Etats-Unis” (where the park part of the square actually is named after Thomas Jefferson) offers a number of statues, including this one by the Statue-of-Liberty creator, Frédéric Bartholdi (1834-1904), which represents George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette (statue copied in Morningside Park in N.Y.C.). Referring to Bartholdi, it could be mentioned that a model of the future Statue-of-Liberty was placed at this square for a short period, as a fund-raising tool to support the creation and financing of the “real one” (see previous posts about the Liberty-statue e.g. here and here).

The other statues here include a Memorial to the American Volunteers, WW I, a bust of an American dentist, Horace Wells (1815-48), a pioneer in the use of anesthesia, and also a bust of Myron T. Herrick (1854-1929), who was the US ambassador twice (1912-14 and 1921-29).
Talking about the US Embassy… it was actually to be found here for a short period, 1881 - 1913, first at no. 3 and later at no. 16. Between 1913 and 1933 you could then find the Embassy in the same area, rue de Chaillot. (Now, it’s of course close to the Place de la Concorde.) Also talking about the  American Embassy … The "Place des Etats-Unis" was previously named "Place de Bitche"… Bitche is actually the name of a French city, but for obvious reasons the name had to be changed.

There are some remarkable buildings around the square, some embassies… previous occupants include the Egyptian King Fuad I, the daughter of Czar Alexander II, Ida Rubinstein, the Viscountess Marie-Laure de Noailles (great sponsor of artists), Woodrow Wilson, Akram Ojjeh… I think it’s better not to know (or tell) who are some of today’s occupants.

One of the buildings is now occupied by Baccarat, the fine crystal maker. There is a museum, a showroom, a restaurant…

Close to the Place des Etats-Unis we find a much more modest square, named after Count de Rochambeau (1725-1807), who was a major actor during the American Revolution, commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force which helped to fight against the British forces. His statue, by Fernand Hamar (1869-1943) has been copied in Newport (Rhode Island) and in the Lafayette Park in Washington D.C..

Washington… yes George of course, is also to be found in the centre of Place d’Iéna – see also top picture. The sculptor is Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), maybe especially known for the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.. (Normally, the French flag should not be there.)

Well, the other American references in this little area are the American Cathedral, on which I wrote here, and the copy of the Flame of Liberty, a gift in 1989 by the American people after a collect organised by International Herald Tribune, see a post here


Some leftovers...

I have had little time available the last couple of days to prepare a real post … Here are just some “leftovers” which I found in my recent “archives”.

I didn’t know about this annual event ,"La Tarversée de Paris". Rowing boats make some 30 km (20 miles) along the Seine. I just happened to cross the bridge – Pont de l’Alma – when I saw some of the obviously 1000 rowers on some 200 boats - from all over the world. It’s not a competition, just a moment of pleasure. (Going downstream possibly makes the pleasure even greater.)  

If you look on the "clouds" on the top picture... they seem all to be just traces of passing jets. 

This was a railway station, “Pont de Flandres”, until 1934, when the passenger traffic on the “Petite Ceinture” was abandoned - the metro system was then well established. This is now a jazz club. (I was there during day-time, no jazz.) I wrote about the “Petite Ceinture” (The Small Belt), the circular railroad, in different posts, e.g. here.  

A little bit of street art. The one of Salvador Dali, by Stikki Peaches, is now almost gone so I took my pictures in time. I also found this tribute to George Méliès (1861-1938) and his movie “A Trip to the Moon” from 1902. It's a mosaic decoration of a school wall by Stéphanie Lechevallier (made with the help of some young pupils). 

… and at last - some odd pictures of some typical Paris monuments. The Ferris Wheel had its last day on Place de la Concorde when I took the photo - the cabins were already gone.


The best view?

Yes, you have a nice view of Notre Dame (see previous posts) from here – maybe even better with an adjusted focus. However, I must admit that in my opinion the best views of Notre Dame are from the backside. (Don’t’ worry about this photo, the leaves are still on the trees, it’s an old photo.)

I wrote briefly on Square René-Viviani here, but this time, maybe a bit more. What today is a green little square just in front of Notre Dame has been occupied by different monastic, hospital… buildings since centuries - but before that we even found a cemetery. We can see that space was well occupied by buildings until the end of the 1920’s, when the green space was created - and the square was named after René Viviani (1863-1925), a French Minister.

Now you find trees, flowers, happy city-bees and a – quite recent – fountain referring to Saint Julian the Hospitaller. Unfortunately the deer did not offer any fresh water the day I passed.

When Notre Dame was restored during the 19th century, several abandoned objects were left on what was going to be the square and they are now part of the decoration.

Even before the creation of the square, there was obviously some little space to plant a tree. You can find what is supposed to be the oldest tree in Paris, planted in 1601 by a botanist, Jean Robin (1550-1620), who gave his name to the tree, Robinia. Well, some 417 years old, the tree is now supported by some concrete crutches, but is still nicely blooming each spring. Consider that the tree was planted during the reign of Henry IV, was 188 years old at the French Revolution…

There are some other even older relics in the square, including some remains of a medieval well...

… and of course (what remains of) the church Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre (Saint Julian the Poor) – we have a second Saint Julian in this little square. The start of the construction of the present church – replacing previous ones (but the Vikings passed) is about simultaneous to that of Notre Dame, around 1160, but both were preceded by some 15-20 years by Saint-Pierre de Montmartre (see previous post). The church building, which in the meantime has served other purposes, has been partly destroyed and has diminished in size. It is awarded to the Melkite Catholic community in Paris in 1889 and has been part of it since then. It is frequently used for concerts. To the right of the entry you can find an old well and a stone, the last remaining one of the slabs which used to cover the Roman streets.  


An amphitheatre

Some six years ago, I wrote about the Paris Faculty of Medicine (see here) and I showed some views of the outside of the previous, 15th century, faculty and its amphitheatre from 1744 - according to what you can read from the inscription over the entrance door, but officially opened in 1745. I didn’t manage to get in then, but... The other day I could get in! The place, now privately owned - and under renovation – was temporarily open for some kind of furniture exhibition (10 € to get in).

The old building, adjacent to the amphitheatre, was full of contemporary, very exclusive furniture.  

I tried to get some views of the construction itself and of course especially of the amphitheatre (see also top picture), which is actually named after an anatomist, who was the first to put it to use. His name was J-B Winslow (1669-1760), born in Denmark, but of Swedish origin. The family took their name from the little Swedish locality “Vinslöv” (today 4.000 inhabitants).


Fragonard... not the painter

There is a Fragonard Museum in Paris. It has actually nothing to do with the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) - nor with his wife or sons, also excellent artists - except that Eugène Fuchs, who in 1926 founded the “Fragonard Perfume” company in Grasse in the south of France, the “capital of perfume”, was an admirer of the painter, who was born in Grasse. “Fragonard” has thus production in Grasse, but also in the village of Eze (see previous post), still on the French Riviera. In Paris, they have rather recently opened this new shop and especially (new) museum in what used to be a well-known furniture shop – and before that even a theatre, a velodrome… I wrote about the – pedestrian - street where you can find it in a previous post.

I made a museum visit, guided by an excellent young lady. What can I say more? It’s free of charge, shopping is not compulsory, the place is beautiful, you learn about perfume making … and at the end they even let you mix your own little perfume.


Running ... for the pleasure

This Sunday and for the 22nd time, there was a race, for women only, “Course la Parisienne”, through some of the central Paris streets, 7 km only (some 4.3 miles), more for fun than for the competition. I missed the first 21 ones, but this time, as they passed just half a minutes’ walk from where I live…

Some of the ladies were obviously taking it seriously…

… but most of them took it more as a moment of fun.

There were a lot of smiles…

There was some special attention for some handicapped ladies. 

I saw them all (some 50.000) running into the little tunnel which was in all news some 21 years ago …

… and I saw them coming out on the other side.


Barbizon ... and Grez

Slightly more than an hour’s drive south of Paris, you will find the charming little village Barbizon, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. Barbizon has actually given its name to what you in the middle of the 19th century could consider as a new type of art - one talks about the “Barbizon School” as the beginning of landscape painting – painting landscapes and countryside just for what they are – without any religious, mythological or historical “excuse”.

Before talking art, let’s just notice that the village has a lot of charm and obviously had it already in the middle of the 19th century, attracting a lot of people who were happy to leave the city centre for a little while or, as what happened to a number of artists, to really settle down.

Here we can see some of the more famous artists who worked and lived here, Theodore Rousseau obviously being the first to settle down here, already in 1836. (Rosa Bonheur didn’t live in the village itself, but close, and she clearly belongs to the “Barbizon School”.)  It should be remembered that these artists prepared for the later success of the impressionists and in some cases actively supported some of the future impressionists.

In the village we can find the houses which were occupied by Rousseau, Millet, Diaz and also the hostel “Ganne”, where many artists lived more or less permanently.

Millet’s house is today a little museum, of course basically dedicated to his art. We can see some old engravings and recognize where Millet was sitting in front of his easel, the photo of a lady who, when she was younger, was the model for the famous painting “Angelus”, the clock which marks six o’clock, the hour when Millet died in this room…

… and a number of paintings by Millet, Rousseau and others and also a little sculpture by Rosa Bonheur and Millet's palette..

My attention was drawn to the fact that Vincent van Gogh obviously was a fan of Millet. Vincent spent part of the cold winter days 1889-90 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence copying or interpreting works by other painters and most of these "copies" were inspired by Millet. (I don’t know how he in 1889 managed to get photos, copies… of Millet’s works. I suppose that Théo sent him material?)  We can also see that already ten years earlier Vincent had copied a few of Millet’s paintings, just when he had seriously started to try to be an artist.

Robert-Louis Stevenson came quite often to Barbizon as a young man… and he also went to another little village in the neighbourhood, Grez-sur-Loing, to the Hotel Chevillon, where he met many artists and also met his future wife… and this is actually also where I went after Barbizon, to listen to a little private concert by well-known artists in Sweden Monica and Carl-Axel Dominique and their cello-playing friend John Ehde. (I wrote about Grez in a previous post here.)