Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wallace Fountains


The Wallace Fountains, named for Sir Richard Wallace, their financier and designer, are scattered all throughout Paris. There are four models: large, small, applied, and colonnaded. (Large: see above. Small: see below.)  

The fountains were donated in 1872 as a philanthropic act to the city provide a free source of potable to the poor. In the large fountains, a stream of water falls down the center between the four caryatids. They originally had drinking cups attached, but those were removed in the 1950's for hygiene reasons. Thirsty passers-by can easily put their own water bottles or cups in to catch water-- this blogger, however, would recommend against trying to stick one's whole head in to catch the water. Heads can be difficult to remove from between caryatids, as personal experience has taught me.

The flow on the small models is quite heavy, just enough so that your face will get splashed if you drink straight from them. The flow in the large fountains is a bit lighter, steady and constant. 

In all, there are 67 large models and 9 small models throughout Paris in 17 different arrondissements. There are only three total remaining of the other two types, and I never saw them. There is something about these fountains that makes them recede into the streetscape, in a Harry Potter-esque Diagon Alley way. Their dark green cast iron is easy to miss if you don't know to look for them. And many people are unsure whether or not the water is potable. But once you're on the lookout, they just pop up everywhere you go. (Obviously, I was always on the lookout. And once I had a glorious dream about a giant Wallace Fountain conglomeration.)

But somehow, the Wallace Fountains are always just where you hope they'll be, in the corners of plazas and in parks. They have a serene beauty to them that is incredibly Parisian. I just love these fountains.