Solid cloud and heavy rain today, so here’s a picture taken on a recent sunny day in the Jardin du Luxembourg – a glimpse of one shady corner of this vast and varied garden. The plane trees either side of the fountain have been allowed to develop their own, characterful shapes, reflected in the still, green pool. The swags of ivy, trained along wirework either side, give an air of nonchalant informality but the effect must be maintained by frequent careful pruning.
The structure now known as the Medici Fountain was commissioned in 1632 by Marie de Medici to adorn the Florentine style garden of her new palace on the outskirts of Paris. The portico in the Italian style, originally known as the Grotte du Luxembourg, was moved to its present location in the nineteenth century, when Haussmann’s transformation of the city cut a new road through the palace gardens. The portico was adapted to take a fountain and the central group of three mythological figures – Polyphème surprenant Galatée dans les bras d’Acis – was added.
The row of stone Medici vases lining either side of the pool are pretty much the same size and shape as the cast iron copies specified by the developers of the Cité des Fleurs. The original Medici Vase is a large, elaborately decorated, marble vase dating from the first century BC, now displayed in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence. Nothing is known of the original location or rediscovery of the vase. It was listed in an inventory of the Villa Medicis in Rome in 1598 and featured prominently in a portrait of the young Cosimo III de Medici in 1656. The Medicis were the trend setters for European nobility in the 17th century so copies of the vase, more or less faithful, soon appeared in all the palace gardens of Europe. The basic shape, stripped of it’s elaborate decoration, has been stock in trade of garden ornament manufacturers ever since.