Reminiscing in the Parlor : Leisurely Viewing Stereographs
La Fontaine Médicis in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France
August 1875
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6.875 x 3.375
One stereograph of La Fontaine Médicis in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France. The photograph shows the fountain with the reflecting pool down the center. The front has the location name hand written on it and the back has the owner's initials and the name of the site again. M. F. H. took a European tour in July and August of 1875, traveling from Belgium to Switzerland, Italy, France, England and Scotland. From other stereographs, it is clear this is from that trip.
The fountain that we see today evolved in stages. It was originally built in the 1630's at the behest of Marie de Medicis, to remind her of her childhood walks in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. It was modelled after the grotto or cave of Bountalenti in the Boboli. This is the only one of the queen's original Luxembourg Garden decorations to survive to the present day, but it was a close call. In 1862, it was moved about thirty meters closer to the Luxembourg Palace to accommodate the widening of the Rue de Médicis, a less drastic street expansion than Haussmann wanted, but it still took a hefty slice out of the gardens. The plane trees surrounding the fountain were planted in 1840 and contrary to the normal French fashion, are not severely pruned, but allowed to leaf out and cast delightful shade. The statue group in the center, Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea, by Ottin (1861), was obviously not originally part of the fountain but was added at the time of the relocation. Like most of the Luxembourg statuary, it carries a heavy allegorical load but it is more captivating than many. As recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Galatea was a Nereid (this is not the Galatea who was the sculpture/wife of Pygmalion) and Acis was a handsome son of Faunus and a sea nymph. Polyphemus was one of the Cyclops and a son of Poseidon, and later blinded by Odysseus (for which Polyphemus called on Poseidon to extract vengeance on Odysseus, propelling the latter into ten years of wandering in his attempt to get home). Polyphemus was crazy for Galatea and paid some belated attention to personal hygiene, cutting his beard with a scythe and combing his hair with a rake. But he discovered Acis and Galatea in the clinch and in his fury, told them they were having their last tryst. Galatea jumped into the sea to escape and Acis tried to run for it, but Polyphemus flung a huge rock at him and crushed him to death. The flow of Acis' blood was the source of the river that bears his name. In the sculpture, the lovers look blissful but their bliss is not going to last. It was no use telling Polyphemus that there were (49) other Nereids in the sea. The lovers are executed in beautiful while marble, Polyphemus in dark weathered bronze.
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