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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

George Washington in Paris

Paris, France. George Washington Equestrian Statue at Place d'Iéna by Daniel Chester French (1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (Dec. 2012)

George Washington in Paris
by Samuel D. Gruber


I came to Paris and saw old friends - people and monuments.  Americans are common, in flesh and bronze, and their comings and goings over two hundred years can often be traced in the many commemorative plaques one finds attached to buildings walls, and in a series of monumental statues placed around the city, but especially in the 16th arrondissement. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are fixtures in the neighborhood.

Paris, France. George Washington Equestrian Statue at Place d'Iéna by Daniel Chester French (1900). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (Dec. 2012)

George Washington never came to Paris in his lifetime, but he is here bigger than life dominating two public spaces, and his image can probably be found elsewhere throughout the city.  Once (at the Place d'Iéna) he is carried on a feisty horse, and once (at the Place du Etats-Unis) he carries, together with his bon ami and protege Lafayette the banners of liberty the flags of the United States and France.

Both works are by sculptors well-known to Americans.  The bronze Equestrian Statue of a very marshal George Washington is by Daniel Chester French, known for his monumental Lincoln Memorial statue, and about whose Richard Morris Hunt monument I recently wrote.  The Washington statue was inaugurated July 3, 1900, the gift of a committee of American women. The text of the statue reads: "gift of the women of the United States of America in memory of the brotherly help given by France to their fathers in the fight for Independence."

 At the Place d'Iéna Washington raises his sword - presumably to advance into battle.  But mostly he combats of the thousands of cars that circle past every day.  Fortunately, horse and rider are raised on a high base, so Washington always rises above the fray. 



Paris, France. George Washington Equestrian Statue at Place d'Iéna by Daniel Chester French (1900). Photos: Samuel D. Gruber (Dec. 2012)

Washington and Lafayette are the work of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, creator (with Gustav Eiffel) of the Statue of Liberty.  Apparently newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer was so  impressed by Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty that he commissioned a statue symbolizing French-American friendship to be installed in Paris. It was dedicated in 1895 at the Place des États-Unis (a replica later erected in Manhattan's Morningside Park, New York).  

Here, Washington is in a quieter setting, set upon a green rectangle at one end of the Place des Etats-Unis.  In the center of the long narrow place is a playground, and several other monuments with American associations are place at other parts of the square.  The square is lined with impressive mansions.  Only a short distance from the much busier Place de l'étoile and the Arc de Triomphe





Paris, France. Washington and Lafayette Status by Bartholdi (1895). Photos: Samuel D. Gruber Dec. 2012)

Paris also has a Rue Washington that connects with the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  It was named after the  American general and president in 1889.

  




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