The elaborate door caught my eye first; arched and square topped panels; squares within circles; a carved central pillar covering the join between the doors and no sign of a doorknob.
Then I noticed the lion masks, either side of the door and at the base of every stone bracket supporting the first floor balcony. A few shaggy, toothless old lions are mixed in among the sleek young ones; deliberate design or a random mix from the stone carving workshop?
Stand back and look up. Above each lion mask a rather grumpy looking cherub peers out between a pair of wings. The brackets for the second floor balconies are carved with children’s faces; real children, not cherubs this time and no wings. For the third floor the carvings are young men with curly hair and elaborate headdresses, for the fifth it looks like bearded river gods or woodland spirits. Down at the corner of the building, out of the picture, the sixth floor balconies are supported by tall caryatids in Greek drapery.
Back below the first floor balconies, decorated elephants’ heads look out above the paired windows, each with a lifelike trunk curled around a bowling ball. Less lifelike are the chubby babies, holding on to the elephants’ ears while reclining on hammocks of flowers.
(Click on any photo for a closer view)
Repeating patterns in cream limestone, blue painted bay windows and black ironwork give the overall facade a calmly harmonious appearance despite the bizarrely varied decoration. Did the developer or architect get carried away by a stone carver’s pattern book and order everything on offer or was the decoration carefully planned and commissioned? This being Paris, this fanciful building, at the junction of Rue Auguste Comte and Avenue de l’Observatoire, is not really that much out of the ordinary. I can’t find anything on the web about the building or its architect. What’s the story behind it? Your guess is as good as mine.
A post for Thursday Doors.