History of the Jardin du Luxembourg
The history of the Jardin du Luxembourg really starts in 1611 when Marie de Medici decided to purchase the land and a small palace that was already located here, and although many things have changed over the years, this large garden in Paris still retains many original features and is a popular tourist attraction.
Beginnings of the Jardin du Luxembourg
Queen Marie de Medici was of Italian origin and wife to King Henri IV, and when he was assassinated, she became regent for their son King Louis XIII, but she was not happy living at the Palais du Louvre, yearning for reminders of her childhood in Florence and a palace that would be more modern and comfortable.
So, Marie de Medici decided to find enough land in order to construct a palace reminiscent of where she grew up, that would be based upon the style of the Palazzio Pitti palace in Italy, accompanied by gardens in an Italian style similar to those of the Boboli Gardens in Florence that she enjoyed as a child.
She decided to purchase an area of land on the left bank of the River Seine in what was becoming a desirable, healthier and quieter area of the city and this came with a Hotel mansion house that had belonged to the Duke of Luxembourg, which is today called the Petit Luxembourg Palace.
In 1612, Marie de Medici then commissioned Salomon de Brosse to start construction of the new palace on these grounds of around eight hectares while she also commissioned a fleet of gardeners including Tommaso Francini to design the park in Paris similar to that of the Boboli gardens.
Tommaso Francini designed the two terraces with balustrades and parterres, which were laid out along the axis of the Palais du Luxembourg chateau, and these were aligned with a circular basin, plus he also constructed one of the Luxembourg fountains called the Fontaine Medicis, which is still in existence today.
The next stages of development of the Jardin du Luxembourg
It was in 1630 that additional land was purchased, so that the Jardin du Luxembourg could be enlarged, and the new garden layout was entrusted to Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie, who had also worked on the Tuileries Gardens and the early gardens of Chateau Versailles.
Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie was one of the people who was a theorist for the more formal French garden, and so, he laid out areas in lines, squares and rectangles, and in the centre of this new style of garden he placed an octagonal basin with a fountain, which is the pool in front of the palace used today by children with model boats.
Unfortunately, the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Palais du Luxembourg was neglected by future Kings, however, in the 1780s the future King Louis XVIII sold a part of the garden in order to pay for the palace to be restored.
Therefore approximately ten hectares of the garden were sold to be used for building houses and a part of the garden sold, but after the French Revolution land was confiscated from the Carthusian monks and their monastery, so that the garden could be expanded once again.
The Jardin du Luxembourg from the 1800s
It was the architect Jean Chalgrin, who designed the Arc de Triomphe, that was chosen to renovate the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Medicis Fountain, but he chose to keep certain aspects of this popular garden intact, including the vineyards and the nursery garden of the Carthusian monastery, along with the formal French style.
One of the other concepts and design features was to ensure that there was a perspective going down the length of the garden from the Palais du Luxembourg right through to the Observatoire, which is still in place today, along with the original terraces.
Then, after the July Monarchy ended in 1848 this elegant and historical park in Paris had started to get adorned with statues, which initially started with statues of queens and saints adorning the terraces that had been instigated by King Louis-Philippe.
However, during the reign of Napoleon III and the major changes that were taking place in Paris, Baron Haussmann changed the layout of the park due to adding new roads and streets, which even meant that the Fontain Medicis had to be moved and reconstructed to the position you can now find it in today.
And it was during this time that the architect and director of parks and gardens in the city, called Gabriel Davioud, who was instrumental in the design of many monuments in Paris, designed the ornamental gates and fences.
Gabriel Davioud also designed the brick garden houses, one of which is called the Pavillon Davioud and the English style garden, along with the diagonal ally, or pathway, which is close to La Fontaine Medicis, and provides an unusual view to The Pantheon.
But it was also at this time that the basin or artificial water feature, along with the additional statues was added to the Medici fountain at this time, plus the Fontaine de Leda was moved from its original location and placed at the back of the Fontaine Medicis.
The late 1800s to the present at the Jardin du Luxembourg
It was after the July Monarchy when many gardens in Paris were being utilised for recreational activities that it was decided a bandstand should be installed, plus numerous different statues in Paris were also commissioned for this garden to add to the others installed previously.
In fact, from the late 1800s there are many different statues and moments that were produced for the Jardin du Luxembourg mainly dedicated to French artists, writers and politicians, along with several animal sculptures, not forgetting a model of the Statue of Liberty, and this continued to the start of the 1900s, and these can all be seen today.
Then came along a guignol show, which is a puppet show, and a dedicated place called the Theatre des Marionnettes du Jardin du Luxembourg was created, and this is still in existence, not forgetting that there is a traditional merry-go-round or carrousel, both of which are many decades old.
There are of course other far more modern features that have been included within the Jardin du Luxembourg in more recent years, which include tennis courts, a basketball court, childrens playgrounds, boules courts, etc, but the essence and history of the Jardin du Luxembourg Gardens still remain, to be seen and enjoyed by all today.