The Grand Axis of Paris

One evening, almost a decade ago, I looked up the sunset time and made my way to the carousel of the Louvre just before. I wanted to take a photo of the pyramid designed by I. M. Pei. The week had been overcast, and the evening was no exception. I hadn’t expected a large number of photographers there, but clearly this had become a photo spot de rigeur. Most of the people there had big lenses, tripods, light meters. I felt like a joker with my bridge camera in my back pack.

With some time to go before it became dark enough, I looked around for other shots. The dark clouds had taken on a golden colour as the horizon moved up to meet the sun. Through the Arc de Triomphe at the carousel I could look down the grand axis of this imperial city, to the Obelisk, and the Arc de Triomphe at Charles de Gaulle Etoile. In principle the Grand Arch of La Defense also lies on the same axis, but you have to go to one of the upper floors of the Louvre to get a view of all these four things lined up.

I’d passed by this spot the previous day as I’d walked up Rue de Rivoli from the Bastille and then decided to cut across the Seine to the left bank somewhere here. The sky was overcast, but the light on the quadriga was very good. I like the story of this sculptural group. As you probably know, Napoleon brought the original from San Marco in Venice and mounted it here. After Waterloo, it was returned to Venice by Austria. The present statue was put here to commemorate the restoration of the Bourbons after the fall of Napoleon. As the light faded I moved back to the scrum of photographers at the pyramid, and got the featured photo.

The Brandenburger Door

If Berlin is the heart of Germany, then the Brandenburger Door is the heart of the city. The Family and I have walked through it every time we were in Berlin. We like the idea that we add to the throng of tourists who stand round to gawk at the late 18th century relic of the Prussian state: ordered by Frederik the Great, and designed by Karl Langhans.

I love the history of the chariot atop the gate, which was sculpted by Johann Schadow. It was supposed to depict Irene, the Greek goddess of peace. Napoleon captured Berlin and took the sculpture to Paris. It was supposed to have been placed atop the Arc de Triomphe, but Napoleon was defeated before the arch could be completed. The sculpture was recovered in 1814 by the Prussian general Bluecher, and put back in its place in Berlin. It was blown to bits during the second world war, and only the head of a horse survived. The most recent quadriga was completed in 1990 after the reunification of Germany.

I liked the gray sky and the warm lights in the featured photo. I wonder what that unmarked white van is doing there: it looks like something out of a cold war spy story.