An international scholarly online history journal on First and Second Empire subjects: articles, bibliographies, book reviews, in english and in french




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Jardin des Tuileries et du Carrousel - 70 acres (28 hectares)


Located between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Carrousel date back to the construction of the Tuileries palace for Catherine de Médicis in 1564. A century later Le Nôtre elaborated on the layout to create a perfect example of the French formal garden. The Jardin des Tuileries was a public strolling spot for XVIIIth century high society and remained open to the public through the XIXth century, while the area closest to the palace, soon renamed the Jardin du Carrousel, became part of the sovereign's residence. Under the Second Empire, this garden was redesigned in the English style for the private use of Napoleon III and the imperial family. With the destruction of the Tuileries palace during the Commune, these gardens became public once again. For the publicly accessible Jardin des Tuileries, Napoleon III retained the pre-existing classical layout and built the Jeu de Paume (réal tennis court) for the imperial prince's recreation. The site later became an exhibition hall for housing impressionist collections, and it is now devoted to contemporary art.

Jardin du Luxembourg - 56 acres (22.45 hectares)


The gardens were planted adjacent to the Luxembourg Palace built by Marie de Médicis in the early XVIIth century. They were later inherited by Gaston d'Orléans, Louis XIII's brother, who opened them to the public. After many difficulties the palace gardens were confiscated by the Count of Provence. During the French Revolution they were turned into a prison, then subsequently served as the seat of government for the Directory before finally becoming the Senate gardens during the Empire. The Second Empire brought about the greatest upheaval. A decree dated November 28, 1865 ordered the destruction of one-third of the gardens. Twenty-five acres (10 hectares) of "wilderness" were to be destroyed despite public outcry including a petition bearing 10,000 signatures.


On February 18, 1866 Napoleon III visited the gardens and approved the plans to supplant 30 acres (12 hectares) including the distinguished Pépinière des Chartreux tree nursery. Classical order thus replaced the gardens' romantic demeanour and the Jardin du Luxembourg found its permanent home within the perimeters we still know today. Davioud built his famous wrought-iron gates, the grounds near the Observatory were divided into squares and the gardens were ornamented with numerous statues - nearly eighty of which are still in the present-day gardens. The Fontaine Médicis was decorated in 1864 with sculptures by Ottin portraying Polyphemus and a grouping of Acis and Galatea. In 1866, the empire-period Fontaine du Regard by Gisors was attached to the back of the Fontaine Médicis, after being removed from its initial spot when the Rue de Rennes was built. Though the Jardin du Luxembourg may have been the only sour note sounded by the Second Empire's urban planners, it remains today one of the capital's liveliest gardens.

Jardin Marco-Polo - 2.7 acres (1.09 hectares)


These two gardens were created in 1867 between the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Observatory. Their location covers part of the old Vauvert castle which was said to be haunted by the devil. The expression "aller au diable Vauvert" grew out of visitors' dread of this isolated spot in the garden and thus came to be used for situations in which one found himself in "the middle of nowhere". Each of the two gardens is planted with four rows of majestic chestnut trees, pruned into a green canopy, and both are decorated with flower beds surrounding statues by the most famous sculptors of the Second Empire: La Nuit (Night) by Gumery and Le Crépuscule (Dusk) by Crauk in the Jardin Cavelier-de-la-Salle; Le Jour (Day) by Perraud and L'Aurore (Dawn) by Jouffroy in the Jardin Marco-Polo. The garden's outstanding perspective culminates in the celebrated Fontaine des Quatre Parties du Monde. This collective work portraying the four continents was sculpted in bronze under Davioud's supervision, and is especially noteworthy for the upper section erected by the master sculptor Carpeaux.

Jardins des Champs-Elysées - 34 acres (13.7 hectares)


This promenade designed by Le Nôtre in the XVIIth century became national property in 1792. To mark this, the Chevaux de Marly (the 'Marly Horses'), the work of Guillaume Coustou and commissioned by Louis XIV, were placed at the Place Concorde entrance to the gardens on pedestals designed by David. Allied troops camping on the Champs-Elysées from March, 1814 to March, 1816 left the site in a state of total ruin. Under the Second Empire the gardens became very fashionable with an array of cafés, restaurants and theatres. In 1858 Alphand transformed the Jardins des Champs-Elysées into English-style landscape gardens, complete with undulating lawns, flower baskets and clusters of rare trees and bushes that adorn this enduring landscape still today, over one hundred years later. Before the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais were built for the 1900 World Fair, the site housed the Palais de l'Industrie, a huge metal structure which hailed from the first French World Fair in 1855. The building housed major art shows throughout the rest of the Second Empire, notably the Salon des Refusés in 1863. Davioud's Théâtre du Rond-Point (formerly the Palais des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors)) was inaugurated in 1860. The Théâtre Marigny is the work of Charles Garnier.

Jardins de l'avenue Foch - 17 acres (6.62 hectares)


To connect Paris and the newly created Bois de Boulogne, Napoleon III designed a majestic highway befitting the elegance of the capital's western neighbourhoods. Avenue Foch, formerly known as Avenue de l'Impératrice, thus came into existence. Legally approved in 1864 and inaugurated in 1865, the Avenue de l'Impératrice was to fulfil its architects' vision of the world's most beautiful avenue. Every possible means was used to meet this goal. The Avenue was nearly a mile long and over 450 feet wide, leaving ample room for a broad road suitable for coaches, two side alleys - one reserved for those on horseback and the other for pedestrians - as well as two additional side paths and sidewalks lining adjacent houses. Alphand was entrusted with landscaping this "imperial route", which he adorned with gardens flourishing with nearly 4000 divers kinds of trees and bushes acclimatised to Parisian conditions. Remarkable examples still lend shade to the present-day Avenue, including several trees over one hundred years old: three plane trees, a horse chestnut tree, a Japanese Sophora, a Siberian elm and a Virginia tulip tree. As early as 1855, before trees were planted or were barely in bloom, with roads still under construction and foundations just being laid, the Avenue de l'Impératrice became a fashionable meeting place for the aristocracy and the demi-monde, where elegant horsemen and gleaming teams of horses with imposing demeanour vied for attention on their way to the Bois de Boulogne.



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