The garden of the Tuileries – named for the tile manufacturing district it replaced – is a beautiful sanctuary in the heart of Paris, away from the hustle and bustle of the traffic and the visual stimulation of the various museums and galleries.
This is a seriously well tended garden – a discreet army of gardeners work quietly away in the background sweeping up leaves, collecting rubbish and tending the plants. Even the trees are tamed into cubes, and everywhere there are settings of statues and urns on plinths throughout.
We quickly encountered the eco lawn-mowing system for those hard to reach areas in the storm ditches – a team of goats munched their way making great use of their sure footedness to maintain a tranquil stance on the steep slope.
They have obviously long been a feature of this area as one of the urns used a goat motif for the handles – and there was Sharon’s inspiration for her day’s sketching.
A courageous move, I thought, as the sky darkened by the minute and threatened a severe downpour, but a challenge is a challenge, so we found a couple of chairs and settled down. While Sharon sketched, I took photos and fended off curious onlookers. A Judas Tree framed the urn and beyond lay the Louvre in turn framed by the garden. It is not the view everyone sees, but made a delightful composition among the autumnal flowers.
A carousel was set off to one side, near a large children’s playground and it played a series of french songs – a real delight!
Sharon managed to complete her sketch as the sky lowered and darkened and the wind picked up.
So we headed towards the Museé de l’Orangerie – as its name suggests the Orangerie was originally built in 1852 by the architect Firmin Bourgeois and completed by his successor, Ludovico Visconti, to shelter the orange trees of the garden of the Tuileries. It was then used as a store room/warehouse during the Republic and was later used as a temporary exhibition space for artists. Criticised for being too small, it took Monet’s donation to the people of France of a series of water lilies paintings to set up a permanent exhibition space – for those paintings to offer a haven of peace in the aftermath of the First World War.
Photos are not permitted of Monet’s works there but we passed by Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’ statue and the famous ‘Cleopatra’s Needle – one of three obelisks brought back from Egypt during the Napoleonic campaigns (the other is in London). The obelisk is some 3000 years old – so calling it ‘Cleopatra’s’ is a misnomer – it was already over 1000 years old when she was alive. This needle, unlike the London and New York versions, is from the temple entrance at Luxor where its twin resides. The London and New York pair originated in Heliopolis and were moved to Alexandria during Julius Caeser’s reign.
The big surprise is that Monet’s paintings are only part of the museum. Downstairs is another gallery of works from the John Walter and Paul Guillaume collection – this comprises a number of works by Renoir, Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Durain, and Chaim Soutine. What a gem!
If you are ever passing this way it is well worth a visit – the entrance fee of €7.50 is well worth it for Monet’s breathtaking pieces alone – and the rest is the icing on the cake.