Trip around Jardin du Luxembourg

On the way to our lunch, we cut through the Jardin du Luxembourg –  a delightful spot. Situated on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, in the sixth, it is colloquially referred to as the Jardin du Sénat, because it’s now owned by the French Senate, which meets in the Palace. The name Luxembourg comes from the Latin Mons Lucotitius, the name of the hill where the garden is located.

How it all began

Marie de' Medici, Queen of France | Unofficial Royalty

In 1611, Marie de’ Medici (above), the widow of Henry IV and the regent for the King Louis XIII, decided to build a palace in imitation of the Pitti Palace in her native Florence. She purchased the Hôtel du Luxembourg (today the Petit Luxembourg) and began construction of the new palace. She commissioned Salomon de Brosse to build the palace and a fountain, which still exists.

In 1612 she directed a series of gardeners, most notably Tommaso Francini, to build a park in the style she had known as a child in Florence. Francini planned two terraces with balustrades and parterres laid out along the axis of the château, aligned around a circular basin. He also built the Medici Fountain to the east of the palace as a nympheum, an artificial grotto and fountain, without its present pond and statuary. The original garden was just eight hectares in size.

In 1630 Marie bought additional land and enlarged the garden to thirty hectares, and entrusted the work to Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie, the intendant of the royal gardens of Tuileries and the early garden of Versailles. He was one of the early theorists of the new and more formal garden à la française, and he laid out a series of squares along an east–west alley closed at the east end by the Medici Fountain, and a rectangle of parterres with broderies of flowers and hedges in front of the palace. In the center he placed an octagonal basin with a fountain, with a perspective toward what is now the Paris Observatory.

Later monarchs largely neglected the garden. In 1780, the Comte de Provence, the future Louis XVIII, sold the eastern part of the garden for real estate development. Following the French Revolution, however, the leaders of the French Directory expanded the garden to forty hectares by confiscating the land of the neighbouring religious order.

Fontaine de Léda, (1807), hidden behind the Medici Fountain

The architect Jean Chalgrin, who designed the Arc de Triomphe, took on the task of restoring the garden. He remade the Medici Fountain and laid out a long perspective from the palace to the observatory. He preserved the famous pepiniere, or nursery garden of the Carthusian order, and the old vineyards, and kept the garden in a formal French style.

Location of the series Reines de France et Femmes illustres (Queens of France and Famous Women) around the central basin.

During and after the July Monarchy of 1848, the park became the home of a large population of statues; first the Queens and famous women of France, lined along the terraces; then, in 1880s and 1890s, monuments to writers and artists, a small-scale model by Bartholdi of his Liberty Enlightening the World (commonly known as the Statue of Liberty) and one modern sculpture by Zadkine.

Marie de Médicis' fountain, now with Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea, by Auguste Ottin (1866)

In 1865, during the reconstruction of Paris by Louis Napoleon, the rue de l’Abbé de l’Épée, (now rue Auguste-Comte) was extended into the park, cutting off about seven hectares, including a large part of the old nursery garden. The building of new streets next to the park also required moving and rebuilding the Medici Fountain to its present location. The long basin of the fountain was added at this time, along with the statues at the foot of the fountain.

View through the gates on Rue Auguste Compte

Gabriel Davioud, under the leadership of Adolphe Alphand, built new ornamental gates and fences around the park, and polychrome brick garden houses. He also transformed what remained of the old Chartreux nursery garden, at the south end of the park, into an English garden with winding paths, and planted a fruit garden in the southwest corner. He kept the regular geometric pattern of the paths and alleys, but did create one diagonal alley near the Medici fountain, which opened a view of the Pantheon.

Nowadays, the garden is largely devoted to a green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and centred on a large octagonal basin of water, with a central jet of water; in it children sail model boats.

In the southwest corner, there is an orchard of apple and pear trees and the théâtre des marionnettes (puppet theatre). The gardens include a large fenced-in playground for young children and their parents and a vintage carousel. In addition, free musical performances are presented in a gazebo on the grounds and there is a small cafe restaurant nearby, under the trees, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The orangerie displays art, photography and sculptures.

Obviously winter isn’t the best time for a visit but I find the gardens delightful all year round.

20 Comments on “Trip around Jardin du Luxembourg

  1. Pingback: ReBlogging ‘Trip around Jardin du Luxembourg’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

  2. After seeing how neglected the statues were it makes me appreciate all the ones that are taken care of and clean. Thank you for sharing an interesting place to visit! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was once stuck at the airport in Luxembourg for hours. Tiny, little, well stocked place. It’s such a small country. I should have used the time for sightseeing instead of sleeping at a hard airport bench.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We visited when it was pouring rain and it was still beautiful. We will see Pitti Palace in Florence this summer, but I think parts of the inside are being renovated so not sure we will go inside.

    Liked by 1 person

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