Free Quirk No.13 ~ "How Slow Can You Go?"


"How Slow Can You Go?"

What a splendid sight, just across from the Grand Palais on Cours La Reine, this lone horseman, drawn sword thrusting skyward, saluting the passing pigeons with a nostalgic eye on more exotic birds perhaps.

For this is Lafayette, err, Général Lafayette, scusi, a member of parliament, head of the Guarde Nationale during the French Revolution and a hero of the American war of independence in the late 1770s no less.

It's for this latter role that in 1899 the recently hatched United States of America wanted to pay hommage to France for his role in the affair.

By way of a statue.

Apparently it was supposed to be 'the most beautiful statue ever created in in honour of a man'! With the only problem that the sculptor, a certain American called Paul Bartlett, was given precisely a year to complete it because it was to be unveiled with great ceremony for the International Exposition of 1900.

He didn't finish the real statue on time, but he did manage to complete a plaster model which was used instead, to the apparent approval of those present, including two school boys, one from each side of the Atlantic, with the French one being a descendent of Lafayette himself.

Once the fuss and fervour of the Exposition was over, Bartlett still had to produce a proper, bronze version of the general of course. Only he wasn't satisfied with the model any more and decided to completely redesign in. In his own time. His own eight years of time.
Eventually, he installed the proper statue in the place of the plaster one, still in the middle of Cour Napoléon, a place of high prestige, evidently. Only a couple of things had changed.

Due to a certain ambiguity of allegeances concerning the general, there probably wasn't much said when the final version had lost its Louis XVI style regalia - coat, wig, three-cornered hat - and had him bare-headed wearing a more revolutionary outfit! The originally down-facing sword was now being brandished aloft as I mentioned earlier.

But this is all just preamble for today's Paris Quirk folks - I hope you managed to make it this far!

"I spy, with my little eye,
something beginning with 'T'!"

Back in the 80s someone decided that an enormous glass pyramid would be better than a statue of some old general in the middle of the Louvre courtyard, and Lafayette was unceremoneously (he'd already had one in 1900, remember?) carted across the Tuileries to where he now sits between the Grand Palais and the river Seine.

Just him and his horse, way up high. Well... not quite.

You see, as they were moving him, they noticed something very curious indeed. In between his horses back legs was a little slow-moving friend, insignificant indeed, under the stride of such a magnificent beast, just about the size of a... well, have a look at the side-on picture of the statue above, which was taken just as spring was sprouting and the leaves were rapidly covering up this curiosity for another year (until next winter anyway). Can you see the little guy hiding there in amongst the branches?

A tortoise! A little, green and highly symbolic tortoise keeping the soldier and his mount company across the decades, and only visible for the leafless months of winter and early spring.

And what was he doing there? Well we can't be certain as I haven't come across an authentic report of the sculptor mentioning this, but the general opintion is that Bartlett had a fairly ironic sense of humour and this was his way of saying to whoever might discover him one day... boy-oh-boy, did that take some time to finish!

Although we, the statue appreciating public, seem to have been even slower to discover his funny furtive little fellow than it took his master to create him - but what a pleasure it is to do so now that we have.

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