If it is a beautiful sunny day in Paris, a great place to go is the Tuileries gardens as we and much of Paris did yesterday. Created by Catherine de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564, it was first opened to the public in 1667, and became a public park after the French Revolution.
It is a classic French garden designed by Pierre le Notre under Louis XIV who also designed the gardens at Versailles. It is very orderly and symmetrical with one very wide center walkway and two additional walkways on the side as you can see on the original plans to the right.
On the west side of the garden, beside the present-day Place de la Concorde, he built two ramps in a horseshoe shape and two terraces overlooking a octagonal water basin sixty metres in diameter with a fountain in the centre. These terraces frame the western entrance of the garden, and provide another viewpoint to see the garden from above.
We came in from the west, from the Place de Concorde through an impressive set of gates with copies of Coysevox’s famous equestrian statues covered with pigeons seen above. When you look closely at these statues you can really see how the weathering has obscured the fine details.
Even though the park is highly structured, it doesn’t seem as sterile as the gardens at Versailles. It is full of laughing people, running children and others just enjoying the day. For such a large park it seems incredibly intimate, with smaller tableuxs almost everywhere you look.
Another comparison might be to Central Park in New York, and while I love central park for it’s rustic beauty, the zoo, skating ring and Tavern on the Green (sadly gone), it seems somehow less accessible than the Tuileries.
The grand central alley is lined with shady, clipped chestnuts and manicured lawns, and framed at each end by ornamental pools, surrounded by an impressive gallery of statues (by the likes of Rodin, Coustou and Coysevox) brought here from Versailles and Marly (Louis XIV’s retreat from Versailles, no longer in existence), though many are copies, the originals having been transferred to the Louvre.
The side walkways are full of shade and lined with grassy squares with modern bronze sculptures and little cafes which always seem packed on a pretty day.
Sculpture is everywhere and it is grand sculpture by the greats of the French past like this huge sculpture of Julius Caesar by Nicolas Coustou from 1722.
Something about the combination of really good sculpture and a park make for a lovely walk, stopping to admire the lawns, the flowers, the pools and most importantly to get away from the everyday cares of life.
During the French revolution large numbers of statues from royal residences were brought to the gardens for display.
We decided to have lunch at one of the little cafes, Cafe Renard, the food was good, I had escargot and French onion soup while Lisa had a salad. Even Lisa thought the soup was great, not too salty and the taste of fresh baked French bread came through in the soup. They serve decent French food, a little pricey, such as Croque-Monsieur, Steak-frites, Confit de canard, nicoise salad, onion soup, etc… but the main reason to eat here is the location.
The Grand Couvert is the part of the garden covered with trees. The two cafes in the Grand Couvert are named after two famous cafes once located in the garden; the café Very, which had been on the terrace des Feuiillants in the 18th-19th century; and the café Renard, which in the 18th century had been a popular meeting place on the western terrace.
While we were eating, various children ran back and forth on the grass, which had a prominent “do not walk on the grass sign” even though no one really seemed to mind. The statues in the centers of the grassy areas were modern bronzes, the one to the left is “La Grand Musicienne” by Henri Laurens. The grass itself had an elevated rectangular berm, just an elegant small touch.
There was lovely little garden behind the restaurant with a peculiar but beautiful little fence that bent inwards and outwards. You might also notice that the trees have all been trimmed square, effectively making a “hedge” above the trunks.
The bronzes are by really famous modern sculptors, like the piece shown above, titled “Standing Figure” by Willem de Kooning. This particular piece is massive and fits the space beautifully. To me, it looks like two elephants dancing!
We found two little ponds (for carp?) as we wandered on toward the Louvre. After the revolution, in 1794 the new government assigned the renewal of the gardens to the painter Jacques-Louis David, and to his brother in law, the architect August Cheval de Saint-Hubert. They conceived a garden decorated with Roman porticos, monumental porches, columns, and other classical decoration. The project of David and Saint-Hubert was never completed. All that remains today are the two exedres, semicircular low walls crowned with statues by the two ponds in the centre of the garden. The statue to the right is a copy of the Venus Callipyge by Francois Barois. The name means literally Venus of the beautiful buttocks, they were covered for moral reasons!
The statues in the front are copies of “Daphne Pursued by Apollo” by Nicholas and Guillaume Coustou. In 1714 for Marly they collaborated in two marble sculptures representing Apollo Chasing Daphne (both at the Louvre), in which Nicolas Cousteau (the son) sculpted the Apollo and Guillaume (the father) the Daphne.
We finally made it to the large basin near the Louvre flanked by gardens and two smaller fountains. The basin is ringed with statues and we felt a little like the guy at the right, we were sorry to go!
This statue is “Cain from Killing His Brother Able” done in 1896 by Henri Vidal, a student of Mathurin Moreau.
This end of the park is full of more people and has incredible flower gardens, you can smell the scent of the flowers just about everywhere you go.
A ferris wheel and amusement park were being set up on the side of the Tuilaries and the photos above show the two side fountains in among the flowers. I saw the ferris wheel set up many years ago on the Champs Élysées.
The garden of the carousel, also known as the Place du Carrousel was formerly enclosed by the two wings of the Louvre and by the Tuileries Palace. In the 18th century it was used as a parade ground for cavalry and other festivities. The central feature is the Arc de triomphe du Carrousel, shown above, built to celebrate the victories of Napoleon, with bas-relief sculptures of his battles by Jean Joseph Espercieux.
The elevated terrace between the Carrousel and the rest of the garden used to be at the front of the Tuileries Palace. After the Palace was burned in 1870, it was made into a road, which was put underground in 1877. This part of the garden was remade in 1995 to showcase a collection of twenty-one statues by Aristide Maillol, which had been put in the Tuileries in 1964. The piece shown above is “River” done in 1943, a year before his death.
In another part of this special garden devoted to Maillol there are a series of very fragrant ceder hedges with passageways between the long rows. More Maillol bronze statues stand in each open line like the one above, “Pomone” done in 1910.
Well, I know this has been a long post but as always, I hope you enjoyed.