The Fountain of the Four Seasons
This fountain is considered to be a monumental feature of the 18th century. Located at 57-59 rue de Grenelle in Paris France, the Fountain of the Four Seasons was created by Edme Bouchardon, the royal sculptor of King Louis XV. This ornate and ostentatious fountain was opened in 1745. The fountain actually irritated Voltaire and other enlightenment figures because it was on such a grand scale and a huge fountain, but only had two water spouts, creating a lack of water. This fountain is the best work for seeing the architecture during the rule of Louis XV though.
Of the thirty fountain built in the 18thCentury, the Four Seasons Fountain was the grandest and largest of them all. It was created to provide drinking water for the public. The project began in 1739, and took Bouchardon seven years to complete. Besides providing water, the purpose of the fountain was also to show the benevolence of the king. This is the inscription on the fountain:
Whereas Louis XV, the object of the love of his people and excellent father, the support of public tranquility, after having recovered, without the flow of blood, the frontiers of the Kingdom of France, and since peace has been happily restored between the Germans and the Russians and the Subjects of the Ottoman Empire, ruling in a manner both glorious and peaceful; the Prevot des marchands and the ediles (town counselors) have devoted this fountain to the service of the citizens and to the beautification of the city in the course of the year 1739.
The fountain was full of detailed statuary, from the principal figure representing the City of Paris, to the figures on either side of her, which represent the River Seine and the River Marne. All three figures are beautifully detailed. The rest of the décor was ornaments, bas reliefs, as well as the decorative spouts that spill the water. The fountain certainly fulfilled its desire to be beautiful, but unfortunately provided little water.
The fountain was praised during the time of its creation, by pretty much everyone, but Voltaire and other French enlightenment thinkers. It was declared as a fine piece of architecture, but a failure when it comes to providing water. It was also criticized for its massive size, being placed on such a narrow street. There was only one aqueduct that brought water to the left bank, and this water went to the Saint-Michael Fountain first, and then through a pipe, to the Four Seasons Fountain. The water was stored in a reservoir in the upper part of the fountain, allowing the water, by gravity, to flow from the two lion’s head spouts. The water would be collected by the citizens or by porters who took the water to other areas to sell it.
There were many calls to move the fountain to a more prominent square, where it would be visible and fit into the surroundings proportionately. It was probably a good thing this never happened because the squares of Paris were constantly being reconstructed during the 19th and 20th century, so this obscure location is probably what allowed the fountain to survive!