The Fontaines de la Concorde Fountains
The Fontaines de la Concorde are comprised of two monumental fountains in the center of Paris. Both fountains were designed by Jacques Ignace Hitteroff, and were completed in 1840. There is one in the north end, representing maritime commerce and industry in France, as well as one in the south end which represents the navigation of commerce on the French Rivers.
The square where the fountains reside was called the Place Louis XV before the French Revolution. Architect Jacques-Ange Gabriel was commissioned to design a monumental statue of Louis XV with two fountains, because there was a lack of suitable water. This plan was never carried out. During the French Revolution the square was renamed the Place de la Revolution, with King Louis the XVI beheaded there, along with many others during the famous Reign of Terror. After this rather bloody period with the ending of the French Revolution, the square was named the Place de la Concorde.
The Canal de l’Ourcq was completed in 1824, which allowed for more water to be brought in from outside of the city. Now, it was possible to have the addition of two fountains to the square. The city, in 1829, sponsored a competition to design a new plan for the square. Jacques Ignace Hittorff, German by birth, entered the competition, featuring a design with four fountains in four quadrants that surrounded a monumental equestrian statue of Louis XVI. This was not chosen. However, under a new king, Louis-Philippe, Hittorff’s plan was chosen, and the old plans for the square were thrown out. Hittorff worked on the design for the square and fountains for seven years, from 1833-1840, working closely with the Prefect of the Seine, Claude Philibert Barthelot Rambuteau.The influence for the fountains came from the Piazza San Pietro and the Piazza Navona, both of Rome.
The sculptures of these fountains were done by 12 different sculptors who were closely supervised by Hittorff. He wanted the pieces to be harmonious and well balanced. One distinct feature for both fountains is the mushroom shaped cap over the central top pedestal. Hitteroff modified his design plans several times, and in 1835 reduced the number of fountains to be built from four to two, because the city determined there was not enough water for four fountains.
The fountains were designed so that the water was fed through gravity because the water arrived from the canal at a higher point that the Place de la Concorde. The water flowed in a sheet evenly from the rim of the vasque, so carefully designed that the strong winds did not phase it. The overflow would go into the Seine.
The Maritime Fountain features figures that are to be seated in the prow of a ship, surrounded by dolphins spraying water into the air. The figures of the coral, fish, shells, and pearls below the vasque represent industries. In the basin, there are tritons and Nereid’s that hold fish which spout water upwards.
The Fountain of the Rivers features large figures which support the vasque, and they are to represent the Rhone and Rhine Rivers. The other figures represent the key harvests of France: Wheat, Grapes, Flowers, and Fruit. The figures over the vasque which hold the cap are the French spirits of agriculture, River Navigation, and Industry.