Friday, December 31, 2004

Detail of stone face on Pont Neuf bridge, Paris, France, June, 2004. This is my first uploaded photo using "Hello" from Picasa.

This picture shows one of the heads that Christos' op art project covered up in 1985 when Christos wrapped about 410,000 feet of beige fabric over the Pont Neuf bridge (Pont Neuf = New Bridge). I'm fascinated by this bridge because it was apparently the first "modern" bridge (begun in 1578 but not completed until the 1700s) in Paris that was built without houses so the people could stroll along the bridge and see the Seine. Here's a historical description of the actual bridge:

"Tronchet’s Picture of Paris (c. 1818) gives the following description of its original construction and characteristics:

"The length of the bridge is 1020 feet, and its breadth 72 feet, which is sufficient to admit of five carriages passing abreast. It is formed of twelve arches, seven of which are on the side of the Louvre, and five on the side of the Quai des Augustines, extending over the two channels of the river, which is wider in this place, from their junction. In 1773, the parapets were repaired, and the footway lowered and narrowed. Soufflot, the architect of the church of St. Genevieve [now known as the Pantheon], availed himself of the opportunity to build, on the twenty half moons which stand immediately above each pile, as many rotundas, in stone, to serve as shops.

"On the outside, above the arches, is a double cornice, which attracts the eye of the connoisseur in architecture, notwithstanding its mouldering state, on account of the fleurons in the antique style, and the heads of sylvans, dryads, and satyrs, which serve as supports to it, at the distance of two feet from each other. As the mole that forms a projection on this bridge, between the fifth and seventh arch, stands facing the Place Dauphine, which was built by Henr[i] IV, it was chosen for erecting to him a statue, which was the first public monument of the kind that had been raised in honor of French kings. " (173-4) Source:

What Tronchet calls "heads of sylvans, dryads, and satyrs" were supposedly "humorous" and grotesque drawings of people at the time, the archetype of the drunkard, the miser, the lover, commoners (the dentist, the barber, the pickpocket) and even the king -- all exaggerated portraits that made fun of people in a time when freedom of speech was generally curtailed by royal decree. So my question is: Why would Christos want to cover up these great satirical heads in his op art project? More research is needed! Go to the Portland Art Museum to see more pictures of Christos' Pont Neuf project:

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