Monday, January 05, 2009
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Marseilles: Longchamp Palace to the Glory of Water


An extraordinary water tower and palace was built in the XIXth century in Marseilles to welcome water in the Mediterranean city with the new Provence canal.

Situated in the heart of Marseilles (France), at the top of the Longchamp Boulevard in prolongation of the world-famous Canebière, water was staged and honored in 1862 with the construction of the Longchamp Palace (Palais Longchamp in French). When the water of the Durance River entered the mediterranean city at the end of the XIXth Century, bringing fertility, fecondity and more hygiene, the architect of the Basilica of « Notre-Dame de la Garde » Henri Espérandieu (1829-1874) built an extraordinary water tower inaugurated in 1869 with fireworks and orchestras. A massive triumphal arch with in its center the allegoric group of the Durance River and all the symbols related to water and its benefits (namely wheat, vine, fishing) welcomes the river coming from the new Provence Canal. The palace with its colonnade and grotto is surrounded by exceptional gardens, cascades and fountains. The chariot drawn by Camargue bulls, the chubby-cheeked cherubs, the bas-reliefs with tritons are reminiscent of the Baroque Period. The Longchamp Palace is in the eclectic style so dear to artists of the late XIXth Century. Renowned French sculptors like Antoine Louis Barye (lions and tigers at the entrance) or Jules Cavelier (monumental fountain) worked here.

Two museums are housed on each wings of the water tower: the Museum of Fine Arts (whose hall of honor was decorated by Puvis de Chavannes - see my article: Male Nude by Puvis de Chavannes) presenting paintings, sculptures and drawings from the XVIth to the XIXth centuries with works by Perugino, Carrache, Tiepolo, Guercino, Philippe de Champaigne, Rubens, Corot, Courbet, Millet, Puget and Rodin, and the Natural History Museum.

Marseilles : Palais Longchamp. Copyright:

Marseilles, Palais Longchamp, the allegoric group of the Durance River and the statues of vine and wheat. Note the fisherman's net and fish on the column. The bulls from Camargue draw the chariot. Copyright:

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