If you love the history of Paris as much as I do, you know the best classroom is the city itself. When you wander through the streets, the parks, and the gardens in Paris, the sculptures, the historical buildings, and the monuments unwind the history in an unspeakable way. Being the history lover that I am, researching and learning more about the artists and their work reveals unbelievable information.
The Medici Fountain is a very historical fountain that was designed like a grotto, reminiscent of one in the Boboli Gardens in Italy where Marie de Medici grew up. She had this commissioned for the Jardin du Luxembourg when her palace was constructed, meaning it dates from the 1600's, even though it has been altered since with a different stretch of water with it and other statues.
The original two statues on top of the Fontaine Medicis, which is known as the Medici Fountain in English, disappeared along with two nymphs that had pitchers where water poured from.
However, under the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1811 the Fontaine Medicis was restored by the architect Jean Chalgrin who had designed the Arc de Triumphe, and he replaced the water fountain in the niche with two streams of water and added a white marble statue of Venus.
But by the 1840s the wall where the fountain was located was crumbling, and eventually this along with the two lateral arcades of the Fontaine Medicis were torn down in 1855, yet with the plans for reconstructing the city of Paris under Baron Haussmann, one of the new roads he wanted meant that the fountain was in the way.
In 1864, during the Second French Empire, planned to build the rue de Medicis through the space occupied by the fountain. The lateral arcades of the fountain and the crumbling old orangerie behind it had already been torn down in 1855. From 1858 to 1864, The new architect, Alphonse de Gisors, moved the fountain thirty meters to make room for the street, and radically changed its setting and appearance.
He replaced the two original statues of nymphs at the top of the statue with two new statues, representing the Rivers Rhone and Seine. He restored the coat of arms of the Medici family over the fountain, which had been defaced during the Revolution. He inserted two statues into the niches, one representing a faun and the other a huntress, above which are two masks, one representing comedy and the other tragedy. He removed the simple basin and water spout which had been in the niche and replaced them with a long tree-shaded basin. Finally, he removed the statue of Venus and replaced her with a group of statues by Augustie Ottin, representing the giant Polyphemus, in bronze, discovering the lovers Acis and Galetea, in white marble. That is the fountain as it appears today.
Polyphemus is the one-eyed giant son of Poseidon and Those in Greek mythology one of the Cyclopes described in Homer's Odyssey. His name means "abounding in songs and legends". Polyphemus first appears as a savage man-eating giant in the ninth book of the Odyssey. Acis and Galatea is a story from Greek mythology. The story tells of the love between the mortal Acis and the Nereid (sea-nymph) Galatea; when the jealous cyclops Polyphemus kills Acis, Galatea transforms her lover into an immortal river spirit.
I heard this Fontaine also reflect a story Narcissus. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus 'lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour', and finally passed away, changing into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.