Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Luxembourg Gardens: Women in and out of their element

Today I met Catherine from Toronto (after seeing but not meeting her yesterday at a restaurant on the Champs Elysees), both of us feeling a bit lonely traveling unaccompanied in Paris for a week, strange women in a strange place (so why does it feel so much like home?).

Posted by Picasa Luxembourg Gardens

When I met Catherine I was walking toward the Luxembourg Gardens, getting away from diesel fumes on the busy quais along the Seine. I needed quiet, fresh air, and sprawling gardens with birds, men playing bocci ball petanque and kids toddling around, where a palace was built for a non-French-French queen who herself was out of her element.

Posted by Picasa Luxembourg Palace

Marie de’ Medici, married to French King Henry IV, was from Florence and did not feel at home in France. After her husband was assassinated (1610), she wanted to leave her residence at the Louvre and asked architect Salomon de Brosse to design and build this Florentine-style palace (like her childhood home), now home to the French Senate.

Posted by Picasa Henry IV's boot and spur on statue of him at Pont Neuf

She was an Italian woman adjusting to Parisian life, but apparently she influenced French culture, from fashion to food. Some say she is the mother of French cuisine!

One of the few surviving remnants of her commissions is the Fontaine de Médicis, in the photo below.

Currently in the still water of the Medici fountain, dusted with seeds floating down from the surrounding plane trees, there is a woman definitely out of her element. (No, I did not photoshop her in. I searched the Web for information about this sculpture, without luck; ParisDailyPhoto informed me that this sculpture was created by Lotta Hannerz of Sweden.) What would you name her? Do you love her or hate her? (Apparently Marie de’ Medici had lots of reasons to be hated.)

Posted by Picasa Sculpture in Medici fountain at Luxembourg Gardens

I think I love her. She is a woman learning to breathe in an element not her own. I have no problem breathing in Paris (until I get too many diesel fumes), but Marie did, many women must, and whoever this woman is, it seems that all she does is breathe.

Posted by Picasa Update: Thanks to ParisDailyPhoto, the artist's name is Lotta Hannerz, from Sweden.


Ginnie said...

There are so many amazing things about this post, Ruth: meeting Catherine like that; remembering the Luxembourg Gardens from October of 2004 and particularly the Medici fountain. Remember the photos of you and me there?! And now that face in the fountain! Oh my. I love how you have brought all these "women" into this post. The title of the post! And the boot and spur photo is spectacular! You really are eating this up, aren't you :)

Ruth said...

Ginnie/Boots, yes I thought of you with this post, I'm so glad it means something to you. I do find a lot of meaning in that boot & spur photo, looks like he's going to crush the bird. I don't know enough about Henry IV, but so far I don't know that he was mean.

Mei Shile said...

I felt really strange in front of this profile. It lloks so real I thought it was a real person in the fountain

Ruth said...

Mei, that's why I posted the second photo of her, so you can see how large the sculpture is, next to the man on the chair. The first one could be life sized if you don't get the perspective.

Rauf said...

I agree with Mei, I thought it is real.
Queens who came to france from other countries like Marie Antoinette had problems adjusting I think. The French are so different from rest of the Europe. so lucky Marie de' Medici is that she escaped punishment.

So difficult to visualise the present day pollution in Paris. I am still lost in the freshness of Renoire's Paris, I think he moved away from Paris towards the end of his life.

Rauf said...

Perhaps the atmosphere of Paris makes one break free. Where you don't hesitate to talk to strangers.

Ruth said...

Yes, I do feel freer in Paris. But also being on vacation helps, since I am out of my normal routine.

lesleyanne said...

i seriously love this sculpture. it's so different and i like the element of surprise most. but then again, i am a huge fan of most pop-art.

Ruth said...

I had a feeling you would like it too, Les. :)

sukigirl said...

The fountain is my favourite spot to visit when I am in Paris. I have seen it without any sculpture, with the woman's face and just 2 weeks ago with willow boats. What also surprised me is how wonderfully quiet it is despite being used by so many different people including children who guide little sailboats across a nearby pond.
I was searching for more info so that I could write an entry into my blog when I found your wonderful post!

Ruth said...

That's so fun, Sukigirl! I LOVE your blog!

Soul Dipper said...

How did I miss this? Ah, but I didn't - thank you, Ruth!

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