Walks in and around Paris are always a delight to the senses. But this one, a real history lesson, began with a not unexpected assault to our olfactory senses. We are moored just a couple blocks from the barracks of the Calvary of the Guarde Republicaine. Though we cannot see or hear the horses, if the breeze is just right one can easily imagine being in a very active stable in the countryside. This scented start put us in the right mood to discover some of the many sculptures of horses and their riders between Notre Dame and The Grand Palais.
The first being this portrait. Astride his bronze horse on the lead of his much mustachioed men, this Charlemagne waited for 26 years in plaster before the city of Paris had the acquisition funds for the foundry to bring the sculpture to life. Today, and until the end of time, they wait near Notre Dame, but not in a long line as others do . . .
Created by the sculptor Idrac who was inspired by the powerful models of the Italian Renaissance, Etienne Marcel looks out across the Quai de la Hotel de Ville to the Seine. Sitting high above the street and just in front of the rose garden now in full and fragrant bloom, this scupture represents an honor bestowed upon Marcel for his strong opposition to Henry V and the abuses of power by the royals. Times were changing… Left, on a Sunday when there are only feet, (rollers may be attached), bikes, baby carriages and canes for traffic, we had this great view of Etienne Marcel.
The gardens along the way provided serenity and near silence despite their nearness to the busy streets bustling with the noise of city living.
All of the gates into the grounds of the Palais du Louvre are impressive,
and this one at the central entrance into the arcade with La Gloire, is no exception. Created like an ancient medalion high above the arched opening, Glory, with her 2 genies driving the chariot, has the spoils of war at her feet.
And shown above of course, Louis the 14th: this lead reproduction of the original Bernini is magnificent in the Napoleon Court at the Louvre.
In many ways it is more interesting to see the reproduction here, with the blue sky above, than to seek out and admire the original which is somewhere inside! Like many of the horse sculptures on this wander, seeing them from all sides, up close, and from an unobstructed distance adds to my appreciation. They are all so powerful. The victorious soldiers, regal royals, myths brought to life in bronze . . .
You would miss this spectacular gate into the Louvre (shown above) if you didn’t look up. There may have been a representation of Napoleon 3rd in this arch – but after the terrible defeat he suffered at Sedan a movement got underway to remove all his glorifications . . . So today, high above the street and facing the river, the genie of the arts sits awkwardly on Pegasus, waving to those crossing from the left bank to the right.
A tableau of “Peace”(above), driving a triumphal chariot, tops the gateway from the Louvre into the Jardins des Tuileries. Created as a monument to glorify the Grande Armee in a classic Italian style, the design was borrowed from the arch of Septime-Severe in Rome, and reminds me also of the chariot crowning the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. This is an impressive Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in gold, verdigris with pink marble – beautiful. But triumphal monuments seem to be a thing of the past. Win or lose, there is no glory in war. As Jeanne d’Arc shown below would find out . . .
We walked further on to the Place des Pyramids, where stands the statue portraying the young girl Joan of Arc, her fragile figure perched on the powerful work horse. The artist purposely created these contrasts which caused lively criticism for some reason in 1874. During her glory days in Paris, she was wounded nearby where her statue is placement. Today this is one of my favorites, Joan, in the middle of a busy crossroad, unafraid, determined and mighty. She could take their criticism . . .
Leaving the peaceful Tuileries behind, the Place de a Concorde is always bustling and a visual feast with the Eiffel tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the pyramid of the Louvre, the Alexander bridge and of course the obelisk right before your eyes – well, at a distance.
Add to that the herd of goats trimming the grass, pedicabs, the mobs of tourists, and all the statues, gold tipped fences and cacophony of traffic – Paris!
As we approached the Place de la Concorde, Mercury and Renommee a symbol of war and a symbol peace, and of course both on horseback, ride on each high side at the end of the Tuileries. But which was which? In 1984 the originals were added to the interior collection of the Louvre.
Pollution in Paris is a terrible force to deal with and is so destructive – buildings are continuously being cleaned. This may be why the originals were moved. (As an aside, we learned recently that the city of Paris mandates that property owners must keep their own buildings clean and face fines if they do not comply.)
The Cours la Reine is a quiet lovely pedestrian alley between the place de la Concorde and the Alexander Bridge.
The following 3 riders on horseback are a tribute to the greatness of the men portrayed. They were all created in the 1930’s, at a time when the horse was becoming an obsolete part of the world’s war machines. They are among the last portrayed in this way. What symbol will replace the horse for the heroic figure to magnify a general’s prowess in war or a politician’s selfless sacrifices for the greater good?
In the Cours la Reine, there is a shady path on each side of a lush lawn. The green carpet was laid for the the king of Belgium, Albert the 1st, who bravely refused to allow the German army to march through his country. When Albert died in a mysterious accident, the French raised funds to erect a monument in his honor and to express their sorrow and gratitude. Mosaic coats of arms of important Belgian cities encircle the pedestal and on one side of the pedestal is a frieze of Albert enlisting his son into the army.
Further down the path a magnificent statue of LaFayette stands in the middle of the Cours la Reine. It was funded in part by the efforts of students of the American school in Paris, where I was a student many years ago!
At the end of this shady oasis we walked back into the hubbub to see more horses practically flying off the Grand Palais. The exposition universelle of 1900 is responsible for many extraordinary things, including this Palais. Walking by an open delivery door the grillwork of the space is visible. And across the street is the beautiful golden gate into the petite Palais.
The walk was more than just horses . . . Secret gardens, the sky changing dramatically throughout the walk, gorgeous cross river views, identifiable tour groups, cafe stops, a bowl of soup for lunch and a modern chariot, our metro, home!