An enormous fountain … for very little water.

This enormous fountain, the “Fontaine des Quatre Saisons” (Four Seasons), can be found in a rather narrow street, rue de Grenelle. The narrowness of the street makes it difficult to get a complete view … and to take decent photos. This fountain, one of Paris’ largest and most decorated ones, was built during the years 1739-45 during the reign of Louis XV. There were obviously long discussions about where to place this fountain and finally they decided on a “wrong place”.

Many people, including Voltaire, criticized the fountain – especially for its size compared to the limited water supply. See the modest lion spouts at the bottom of the fountain.  

Today, it seems that a Parisian consumes 120 litres of water per capita and day, whereof roughly 1% is drunk. It may be interesting to know that during the Roman times, the water consumption exceeded 200 litres per day. The Roman aqueducts were destroyed, abandoned, and during centuries Parisians had very little water available. The 17th and especially the 18th centuries saw some water coming back to Paris. A number of fountains were created. Water came from the Seine, but especially from the south of Paris via an aqueduct which more or less followed the same route as the former Roman one. I wrote about the “Medici aqueduct” in a previous post.

The fountains gave new jobs and there were hundreds of water carriers carrying water to people who could afford such a service. It seems that the service even could include transportable bath tubs.  

Well, coming back to the Fours Season fountain - In accordance with its name, the four seasons are represented...and you can of course see the Paris city arms.

On the central part of the fountain, you can find a lady, supposed to represent the City of Paris, surrounded by two figures, supposed to represent the Rivers Seine and Marne. 

There is a text to be read, in Latin. Here is an approximate translation:

At the time of Louis XV, loved by his people and an excellent Father, guaranteeing public tranquility after having restored, without bloodbath, the borders of the Kingdom of France, with peace happily established with the Germans and the Russians and the subjects of the Ottoman Empire, ruling in a peaceful and glorious manner, the provost of the merchants (the mayor) and the aldermen have devoted this fountain to the service of the citizens and the beautification of the city, in the year 1739.

1739 corresponds to the year of the “Treaty of Belgrade” which meant peace – for some time – between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire and where France had played a mediation role. This was considered as an important diplomatic success, possibly more thanks to Cardinal Fleury than to the King. Without the title, Fleury was some kind of prime minister under Louis XV. He died during the construction of the fountain, but Louis XV reigned until 1774.  


Jeanie said...

As always, a fascinating post and a beautiful building. I would agree -- not a lot of water coming from that spout! I didn't realize about the history of the water -- Romans vs. contemporary and all. Nicely researched!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I happened upon this fountain taking a walk down Rue de Grennelle. It is a very beautiful spot and, just like Peter, my wife and I had a tough time finding a way to photograph the fountains and statues. Excellent research and pictures Peter.

martinealison said...

Bonjour cher Peter,

Un article abouti... Je ne connaissais pas cette fontaine.
Merci pour les photos.

Bisous 🌸

Maria Russell said...

Beautiful place and beautiful photos. Thank you, Peter.
And Voltaire complaining about this incredible water source! How much water did he need for his daily, endless cups of coffee?