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Notes on the Geography of France: Paris 2: Classical: Photo 1

world pictures France: Paris 2: Classical

We begin not with the Arc de Triomphe but with another arch half its size. This is the Arc de Carrousel, about three kilometers to the southeast of its bigger sibling. There's a straight line between the two, and it runs southeasterly from the bigger arch and along the Champs Élysées to the Place de la Concorde, then through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Jardin du Carrousel. Behind the camera the axis smacks into the Louvre. Far in the background, almost five kilometers past the Arc de Triomphe, the same axis runs through La Défense, the capital's modern corporate jungle, which (trust me) the tiger will get us to before we're done. The axis is part of the grandiose vision of Andre Le Nôtre, whose conception of landscape architecture had very little to do with flowers.

The Arc de Carrousel was built between 1806 and 1808 and like its bigger twin was a product of Napoleon's imperial fetish, no less grand than those of his royal predecessors. The arch is modeled on Rome's Arch of Constantine (or Septimius Severus, according to some authorities, though the differences are small) but is not quite as large. Call it 90 percent of the Roman arch's height and width. The pink marble is a nice touch, the columns themselves having been discovered in a long-abandoned storehouse of Louis XIV. (Can you imagine what "Antiques Roadshow" what have done there? They would have needed ambulances for the infarcted appraisers.) The biggest draw, at least for a few years, was the quadriga up top. These were the horses Napoleon took from St. Mark's in Venice. After his downfall, the Austrians sent the horses home. They were replaced by replicas (as have been the real ones at St. Mark's, taken inside).

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