The Moliere Fountain
There is a stunning bronze fountain that pays homage to one of the greatest playwrights of France, of course, referring to the Moliere Fountain located on the rue Moliere where it crosses the rue Richelieu in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Moliere was actually his pen name being born Jean Baptiste Poquelin in 1622. His plays include The Misanthrope, Tartuffe, and The School for Wives, all being performed still today. Ironically, Moliere actually died of a hemorrhage while playing a hypochondriac in one of his plays, The Imaginary Invalid.
Moliere is considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. He was always careful not to attack the monarchy, because he had earned favor with the king, so enjoyed protection from the attacks of the court. Moliere suffered from tuberculosis, which is what led to his hemorrhaging during the play resulting in his death. Moliere was not allowed to be buried in the sacred ground of the cemetery, but his wife pleaded with the king to allow him to have a normal burial at night, to which he agreed, and he was buried in the part of the cemetery for anabaptized infants until 1792 when he was exhumed and brought to the museum of French Monuments. His body was transferred to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in 1817.
Moliere was generally a successful playwright, even though, during his time, many of the religious leaders and philosophers criticized his work. Playwrights and companies would emulate his style in both France and England. Study has shifted from Moliere’s philosophical, religious, and moral implications, to the study of his comic technique. He is thought to have had a brilliant and original character of style, and his work continues to be celebrated, used, and studied.
The Moliere Fountain replaced the Fontaine Richelieu that previously stood in this place until 1838. It had been demolished because of traffic flow. However, the area needed a fountain, so Joseph Regnier, who was a member of the Comedie- Francaise, recommended a fountain that would be a monument to Moliere. This was because he lived on that street. The Moliere Fountain was the first fountain that celebrated a non-military figure. The lead architect for this project was Louis Tullius Joachim Visconti, but there were many other sculptors and architects that worked on this project.
The main bronze sculpture of the playwright was designed by Bernard-Gabriel Seurre, and the two marble female sculptures that represent Comedy and Tragedy were done by Jean-Jacques Pradier, with each holding a scroll that lists the works of Moliere. At the bottom of the fountain there are lions head spigots which pour water into a semi-circular basin.