Not every tourist who comes to Paris on a short trip will have a chance to see the Gardens of the Tuileries, for they are not open to vehicular traffic-not even go-carts and are not, therefore, on the itineraries of the customary sight-seeing tours. If your sight-seeing in Paris will be limited to these tours, you will get a glimpse of the beginning of these gardens when your bus stops at the Arch of Triumph on the Place du Carrousel on your way to Notre-Dame. However, as these gardens are also not too far from the Place de l’Opera, I think every visitor to Paris ought to make it a point to walk through them, and that is what we propose to do now.
As the entrance to these gardens is so much more impressive when you enter them from the Place de la Concorde end, I intend to take you into them from that rather than from the Louvre end. This will allow us to walk toward rather than away from the Louvre, where I intend to take you tomorrow. In order to save ourselves unnecessary steps, we are going to walk down the Rue de la Paix again, cross the Place Vendome, and then continue down the short Rue Castiglione until we come to the Rue de Rivoli. When we are on this street, we will be right up against the northern terrace of these Gardens, and only about half a block to our right from some steps that will lead us right up to the top of it. If you are THE GARDENS OF THE TUILERIES 41take this same route again, for it is at the end of this very terrace that you will find one of the most important art museums in Paris, the so-called jell de Paume in which are housed the works of the French Impressionists. But for now, let us go on to the gardens. We will come back to the jell de Paume again a little later in this account.
The Tuileries Gardens, as you see them today, are the work of the famous French landscape architect Le Notre who stand to build them in 1664 at the order of Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance Colbert. This is the same Le Notre who laid out the parks of Versailles and it was this same Le Notre also who laid out St. James’s park for Charles II of England. This garden replaced another, but vastly inferior garden, which Catherine de Medici had built there about a hundred years before Le Notre was cornmissioned to change and enlarge it. But even in Catherine’s time, this garden was already known as the Tuileries Gardens. Just how many years it took Le Notre to finish his garden, history does not tell us, for gardens are not generally inaugurated. However, there can be no question about the stupendous amount of labor that has gone into making this area what it is today, especially when you take into consideration that before Catherine built her garden the area along the Seine, hereabouts, was the city’s municipal dump. It was then, of course, quite aways out of the city and may, originally, even have been outside the city walls. This entire area did not change very much until Francis I (1515-1547) who was known as the “King of Good Pleasure”-du bon plaisire -because he would bridge no interference, established a riding school there. But now, let us go back once more to the original gardens.
It seems that about the year 1563 Catherine de Medici had decided to build herself a palace a little distance to the west of the Louvre, which was to serve her as her own private residence. This palace closed off the end of the present Louvre and became known as the Tuileries. In order to provide easy access to the Louvre, Catherine had the Tuileries connected with the Louvre by a long gallery, an idea she, no doubt, obtained from the gallery which connects the Pitti Palace with the Vecchio Palace in her native Florence. However, you need not look for the Tuileries Palace today, as it is no longer in existence, having been burnt out along with the connecting gallery during the Commune of 1871. The connecting gallery, which is now the end of the Louvre on the river side, was ultirrrately rebuilt, but the palace itself, having been too badly damaged, was dismantled. At the same time Catherine built her palace, she also built herself a garden. As the country thereabouts was still rather hilly, this was not a formal garden, but consisted mostly of grottoes, small lakes and fountains, and there also was a menagerie. This garden was open to the public and, naturally, very popular with the Parisians. It is, needless to say, even more popular today. Both the palace and the gardens derived their name from the tile kilns which had long occupied this area. Hence the name, Tuileries, for in French a tile is called a tulle.
As this has been our second mention of the de Medicis-Catherine and Marie-two names we will meet frequently as we wander to other parts of Paris, and I can never get the two properly placed in history, I think that this might be a very good place for me to tell you something about them. Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) was born in Florence, the daughter of Lorenzo de Medici 11 and the French Princess Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergwe. When she was fourteen she was married to the Duke of Orleans who afterwards became King Henry II of France. This match was arranged mostly through the efforts of Pope Clement VII, who happened to be her uncle. Financially, it was a very good match, for Catherine brought with her a dowry of three hundred thousand francs a year, which was certainly a great deal of money for a fourteen-year-old girl. As Henry II was completely under the influence of Diane de ‘Poitiers, Catherine at first led a very quiet and secluded life. However, as a Florentine, and from a family that could afford such tastes, she was very much interested in the arts, and especially in architecture. For ten years it looked as though this marriage was going to be childless, and there even was talk of a divorce, but by the time Catherine was forty-one she had borne her husband nine children, of whom the second became Charels IX. She died in 1589 at the age of seventy and I shall have more to tell you about her when we get to the Louvre.
Marie de Medici (1573-1642) was also born in Florence and was the daughter of Francis de Medici and the Austrian Archduchess Joanna. Both of them, therefore, came from the famous Florentine merchant and banking de Medici family, Catherine being a direct descendant of Cosimo de Medici, and Marie of Lorenzo de Medici. These, in turn, were the two sons of the founder of this family, Giovanni de Medici (1360-1429) who is also sometimes known as Giovanni di Bicci. In 1600 Marie married Friend Henry IV, who had divorced his first wife Marguerite de Valois, whom he had married when he still was Henry of Navarre. Marie thus became the mother of Louis XIII. But that is not all yet. One of her daughters, Elizabeth, became Queen of Spain, and another, Henrietta Marie, became Queen of England. After Henry’s assassination by Ravaillac, Cardinal Richelieu became Marie’s great adversary. Marie de Medici also was fond of the arts, and she too, built herself a palace-the Luxembourg Palace, at the edge of the Luxembourg Gardens. It was also she who commissioned Peter Paul Rubens to paint the twenty-four huge paintings depicting scenes from her life you now see in the Louvre. If you ever go to the Louvre Museum, as I hope you will, you will probably note that Marie de Medici was almost as plump as the voluptuous Flemish models Rubens used for the allegorical figures with which he surrounded her. Although she is said to have been rather cold, she was a good liver, a tendency she tried to counteract by frequently going hunting with the hounds. However, her end was a great deal more serene than Catherine’s had been. After having been banished from France by her son, she lived for some time in Flanders and then removed to Cologne, where she died in comparative obscurity at the age of sixty-nine. So much, then, for Catherine and Marie de Medici. We shall hear more of both of them later, so let us just remember that Marie de Medici was not born until some fifty-two years after Catherine. And now, before we get completely mixed up with our history, let us get back to the gardens.
When Le Notre was commissioned to build the Tuileries Gardens he seems to have known exactly what he wanted to do. Both he and his father had been superintendents of the old garden and they had always lived in a little house right on the grounds. During the many years he had occupied this position he had, no doubt, many times dreamed of what he could do with a garden like that if he only had the money. And now, Louis XIV, thanks to his Minister of Finance, who seems to have been constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to beautify Paris, was to provide it. The first thing Le Notre did was to remove the hills in order to make the garden level. His first problem, therefore, was a soil moving problem, or what the modern excavation contractor would call a “soil-engineering” problem. In order to dispose of the soil from these hills, Le Notre built two long terraces along each side of the garden. Each of these terraces is supported by two walls, one on each side, with an avenue ,of linden trees on top of them. You can form a pretty good idea of the magnitude of this project when I tell you that each of these aerial avenues is about eighteen feet above the level of the gardens, sixty-five feet wide and eighteen hundred feet long, not counting the Place de la Concorde end, which is also walled in except for the entrance. The outside walls of these gardens thus form the longitudinal limits of the gardens, and would, to all intents and purposes, have made it a sunken garden, except for its one open entrance at the Louvre end.
On the inside of the gardens, access to these terraces is gained by several flights of stairs placed at intervals, but also by two broad, heart-shaped inclines, wide enough for carriages, at the Place de la Concorde end. The entrance to these gardens, or if you wish, the exit, is between these two inclines in the exact center of the garden. It is at each side of these two inclines that the two Winged Horses I mentioned to you the day before yesterday are placed. At the Louvre end the entrance is on a level with the adjacent Place du Carrousel and, as I shall describe to you later, very far from being plain. However, it is from Place de la Concorde end that one has the most dramatic entrance, and that for the simple reason that as soon as one enters these gardens one immediately has the feeling of stepping into a sunken garden which, in fact, it is, artificial or otherwise. It is for this reason that I took you to enter these gardens from this end.
On top of the wall, facing the Seine, is the so-called Orangerie, which is now a museum housing the “Nympheas” of Claude Monet. Unfortunately the “Nympheas” referred to here have nothing to do with wood nymphs,. but the term refers strictly to nymphaeas, the botanical designation for water lilies, Claude Monet just was not that kind of artist. On top of the wall on the opposite side is a similar building, known as the Jeu de Paume, by which we just came, and which, as I already pointed out to you, now houses the works of the French Impressionists. When this garden was still a royal garden the one was used as an orangerie and the other as a tennis court. In front of the latter you will also find a statue of CharlesPerrault (1628-1703) the author of our “Puss in Boots” and many other children’s stories. However, his statue was, not placed there so much because he gave us some delightful fairy tales as for his effort to have this garden opened to the children of Paris. Incidentally, the terrace along the river side is known as the Terrace du Bord de l’Eau,. which ought to be self-explanatory; and the terrace along the Rue de Rivoli side is known as the Terrace des Feuillantes, from the Cistercian Monastery which used to stand nearby. And now, let us get off these aerial avenues and examine the avenues, or the allees, as they are called, on the ground.
Directly inside the garden is an open space, about two short city blocks long, with an octagonal basin in the center. In keeping with the rest of the garden this basin is every bit of one hundred fifty feet across, for as you should very well know by this time, nothing is ever done on a small scale in Paris. Around the near end of the basin are four huge groups of sculptures, depicting the principal rivers of the ancient world. These are the Tiber, the Rhone, the Saone, the Nile, the Moselle and .the Rhine. On the other side of the basin, grouped around the beginnings of the allees, are four smaller groups .depicting the Four Seasons. Against the wall on the river side of this area is the beautiful “Femme Couchee by Maillol; and on the Rue de Rivoli side is a bust of Le Notre. This entire area is planted in roses, both in bush form and as standards.
The famous allees, this time planted with chestnut trees, begin shortly after the octagonal basin. These allees extend for two long city blocks, all the way to within about seven hundred feet of the end wings of the Louvre. The center allee is bordered by three rows ,of huge, closely spaced, trimmed chestnut trees on each side of it and is known as the Grand Allee. On each side of this allee there are two other allees with three rows of trimmed chestnut trees on each side again. This makes a total of twelve rows of trees on each side of the middle ,of the Grand Allee, or a grand total of twenty-four rows of trees all the way across the gardens. And this is by actual count. I’ll let you count the number of trees that are in each row lengthwise. These trees are in such perfect alignment that when one stands twenty feet from the first tree, one cannot see a single tree out of alignment. These allees are crossed at intervals, and with the same matheiaiatical precision, by other allees, thus forming a series of rectangles, which are known as quinconces.
As I already mentioned, all of these trees are trimmed into the absolutely symmetrical shape you see so much in the formal parks of Paris, with the top perfectly flat and the sides perfect planes. However, on the inside row, bordering on the avenue, the trees are trimmed into an elongated arch. But even this is not allowed to touch, but has an open space of about three or four feet at the top, probably for the purpose of aeration. All this may not sound like a tree you would want to write a poem to, but when used in the formal setting I have just described, the effect is simply out of this world. The cost of maintaining such an avenue must be pretty well out of this. world too.
In addition to the deep shade these allees furnish, the chief charm of these gardens lies, of course, in the hundreds of statues which are scattered throughout them. One simply cannot go into a park in Paris without seeing the female form displayed in marble and bronze. All through the quinconces isolated groups of sculptures are placed in appropriate settings. I don’t think that even the City’s Department of Parks knows how many statues are scattered through these gardens. There must be hundreds of them, but by far the greatest number of them are concentrated around the basin-a round one this time, and only a little smaller than the octagonal onethat you will run into when you come out of the deep shade of the guinconces and step out into the sunshine of the huge, open space immediately adjacent to the Louvre. Here we have a veritable Bulfinch’s Age of Mythology carved out of stone. However, none of these statues are named, so that you will have to know your mythology to tell what they represent.
There are, first of all, the large groups of Apollo and Daphne, Atalanta, and Hippomenes, at the end of the four quinconces. Then there are nymphs, dryads, nereids, fauns, warriors and just plain female figures, and all of them gloriously naked. Some of them are reproductions from Greek and Roman antiquities; others are, no doubt, originals. However, you will require no titles to identify Diana the Huntress, Acteon with his Hounds, Cupid and Psyche, Arethusa the wood nymph or Echo and Narcissus, for the unrequited love of whom Echo died and for the undue love of self Narcissus was turned into a flower. Who could possibly name or even count them all? And all around the bases of these statues, or else sailing their toy boats on the basin, are the hundreds of well behaved French children, while nearby their nurses keep an eye on them seated on little collapsible chairs. A children’s paradise in a mythological setting.
As I already said, when we emerge from the quinconces we will be in full view of the Louvre Palace, the largest palace in the world, and another arch of triumph, although a much smaller one, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. But about that I will tell you something tomorrow.