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Parc Monceau

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    The origins of the present Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement of Paris go back to 1769, when the Duke of Chartres purchased a large expanse of land near the town of Monceau, which at the time lay just outside the city of Paris. It was then developed between 1773 and 1778 by the painter and landscape-designer Louis Carmontelle, who adorned it with a series of buildings and monuments which recalled great civilizations of the past. This gave the park its exotic style and it became known as ‘Chartres’ Folly’ (« la folie de Chartres »). In 1785 the gardens were modified by Thomas Blaikie to give them a more English style. In 1852 the park was taken over by the city of Paris; part of it was parcelled out for private development, while the rest of the park was redesigned by Alphand; some of the original monuments were discarded and new ones added. The park was eventually inaugurated by Napoleon III and opened to the public in 1861.

    Parc Monceau was just over a mile away from Berlioz’s domicile at the time at 4 rue de Calais in the adjacent 9th arrondissement. Berlioz evidently discovered the park not long after it was opened to the public, and it became a favourite haunt of his, as emerges from a letter to Pauline Viardot (CG no. 2652, 21 September 1862):

[As for me] I often go for morning excursions; I own a beautiful garden that does not cost me a penny, even though two or three dozen gardeners are constantly busy looking after it, grooming it and varying its ornaments. The name of the garden is Parc Monceaux; in the morning at sunrise everything there is ravishingly fresh, quiet and colourful. I spend hours there thinking about nothing, sunk in the deepest stupor. From ten o’clock onwards, being a true prince, I let the public in, and I then slip away so that visitors are not intimidated by my august presence. The villa you have just bought will cost you more for its upkeep, and yet will never display such a sumptuous setting for the performance of its symphony of plants. And I bet that you will just about give me permission to be admitted to it next year.

   

Illustrations

All the pictures on this page have been scanned from engravings, postcards, photos and other publications in our own collection. The modern photos were taken by Michel Austin in May 2013. All rights of reproduction reserved.

I. Parc Monceau in times past

The monument known as ‘Naumachie’ and its classical-style colonnades c. 1863

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The above engraving was published in Paris dans sa splendeur (Paris, 1861-1863, 3 volumes), volume 2.

The ‘Naumachie’ – stereoscopic photo c. 1870

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The colonnades in 1873

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The above engraving was published in Le Monde Illustré, 28 June 1873.

The entrance to the park

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The above original photo was taken in the 1880s.

The colonnades in 1904

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The great alley in 1906

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The old gate of the Hôtel de Ville [Town Hall]  1908

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This gate is a relic of the Hôtel de Ville which was set on fire during the commune in 1871.

The colonnades in 1912

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The Petit Pont [Little Bridge] in the early 20th century

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II. Parc Monceau in our time (2013)

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The above photo shows the Guy de Maupassant monument, behind which a part of the colonnades can be seen.

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The statue in the above photo is the Alfred de Musset monument (see also next photo) 

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Frédéric Chopin monument

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© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin for all the pictures and information on this page, created on 1 August 2013.

Copyright notice: The texts, photos, images and musical scores on all pages of this site are covered by UK Law and International Law. All rights of publication or reproduction of this material in any form, including Web page use, are reserved. Their use without our explicit permission is illegal.

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