Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Grand and Petit Palais, Pont Alexandre III

The Grand Palais and Petit Palais, along with the neighboring Pont Alexandre III (bridge), were all built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900, a world’s fair. The Grand- and Petit Palais sit opposite each other on Avenue Winston Churchill, which leads directly to the foot of the Pont Alexandre III. These three structures can thus be considered one architectural unit.
The bridge, with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was named after Tsar Alexander III of Russia, who played an important role in the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1892. It was Alexander's son, Nicholas II, who laid the foundation stone. This single span iron bridge is classified as a national historical monument.

Click to enlarge images:

Note the illuminated decorative cattails and gilded details.

Le Grand Palais (Grand Palace) is a large glass roofed exhibition hall with a massive exterior that combines an imposing neo-classical façade with a riot of Art Nouveau ironwork. From 1993 the building was closed for 12 years for extensive restoration work after one of the iron rivets from the glass ceiling fell 148 feet to the floor during a public exhibition (no one was injured). It reopened in September, 2005. The metal structure containing the 160,000 sq. ft. of glass panes in the roof weighs 500 tons more than the Eiffel Tower.

The building also contains a noted science museum, the Palais de la Découverte (Palace of Discovery), housed in an addition added for the 1937 world's fair; its entry is on Ave. Franklin D. Roosevelt. There is a restaurant with an attractive terrace, as well (entrance is on the side along the Seine near Pont Alexandre III bridge). A little known fact is that the Grand Palais has a major police station in the basement which helps protect items on exhibit.

The Petit Palais, designed in an exuberant neo-Rococo style, houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris (fine arts museum of the city of Paris). There is an exceptionally beautiful winter garden featuring mosaic-trimmed ponds and colonnades, opening out onto a café and restaurant.
The Petit Palais was created as a city museum in which to showcase the works bought from the yearly fine art Salons. Most of the collection is the legacy of Auguste Dutuit, including ancient artifacts, medieval objects, rare manuscripts and books and Dutch paintings from the seventeenth century. The collection includes art from the Egyptian era to the present. The museum also houses the Tuck Collection of 18th century furniture and the City of Paris collection of works by French artists, such as Jean Ingres, Eugène Delacroix and Gustave Courbet.
Like many Parisian structures purpose-built for exhibitions, the Petit Palais and Grand Palais were intended as temporary buildings. Their beauty led the city to find use for them in the post-Universal Exposition years.

Thus Le Petit Palais was opened as a museum in 1902. Today tourists flock here to see famous paintings in its permanent collection, such as Poussin's The Massacre of the Innocents, Ruben's Prosperpina, and Rembrandt's Self-Portrait with Poodle. There are also Impressionist selections from the nineteenth century by Pisarro, Morisot, Cassatt, Manet, Renoir, and Gauguin. The museum houses more than 12,000 prints, as well.
Restoration of Le Petit Palais was completed in December, 2005. Admission to the permanent collections is free.

Yes, the bronze statue is of Churchill; he is facing the avenue that bears his name. Click photo to enlarge.

Spectacular rococo gilded metalwork of the main entrance.

Le Petit Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill
Open 10:00a to 6:00p daily except Mondays and holidays.
Métro: Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau or Franklin D. Roosevelt

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