Big City Tales

Petit Palais is BIG on Artistic Details

May 23, 2018
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As the building that houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, the Petit Palais is big on artistic details that make for a lovely viewing experience of its glorious exterior, spacious galleries, and elegant garden courtyard.

The Petit Palais is located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris along Avenue Winston Churchill and is directly across the street from the Grand Palais. The two structures were originally constructed as exhibition halls for the 1900 World’s Fair (Exposition Universelle). The nearby Pont Alexandre III deck arch bridge, which reflects the aesthetic of the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, was also built at this time as part of the city’s preparations to welcome (and wow!) the world.

Designed by French architect Charles-Louis Girault, the Petit Palais is constructed of stone, steel and concrete and its exterior Beaux Arts style features numerous sculptures and other decorative elements such as a massive central archway topped by a dome, free-standing columns that frame a series of tall windows, and flower beds and fountains around the grounds.

The interior rotunda and main galleries were intended by Girault to be especially grand with vaulted ceilings, marble walls and tiled mosaic floors used to enhance the beauty of the art on display, notably the larger-than-life Gloria Victis statue created by French sculptor Antonin Mercie that stands proudly in the main entrance.

The rotunda’s dome and gallery ceilings are embellished with a series of allegorical paintings and carved niches. Spiral staircases with wrought iron railings connect the upper and lower galleries and add another level of elegance and charm.

The collections of the Petit Palais include paintings, statues, tapestries, religious icons and other art objects dating from ancient times to the 19th century. The works of many prominent French artists such as Monet, Fragonard, Poussin, Delacroix, Courbet, Cezanne, Gaugin and Rodin are celebrated along with other European masters such as Rembrandt, Modigliani, Durer and Rubens.

The inner courtyard, also designed in the Beaux Arts style, is a masterpiece in and of itself for its symmetrical forms that include coupled columns, gilded bronze statues, and high relief sculptures. The lush garden is full of trees, shrubs, bushes and flowering plants with paths, ponds and fountains surrounding it.

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