Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sab's Top Ten Paris Wallace Fountains: No.2 ~ "Better Red Than... Green?"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Wallace Fountain

Sab's Top Ten Paris Wallace Fountains
No.2) ~  "Better Red Than... Green?" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

Me and Wallace, we're like that you know - practically brothers. Will - Willace - Wallace; you see, family, more or less.

It's true that as a Scot I feel more than a passing affinity with the so-called philanthropist who gave a bucketful of these fountains to my adopted city in a wild and utterly un-Scottish display of largesse if you believe the old cliché about the mean old Scots. My theory's that he'd had a few too many wee drams and was letting the whisky get in the way of wiser choices at the signing of the contract.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the fact is that there are now Wallace Fountains on practically every street corner.

They've now become so symbolic of the Parisian cityscape that they grace guide book covers and no Parisian photo essay would be complete without at least one picture of these emblematic watering holes, originally intended for the poor and thirsty in search of clean liquid refreshment.

They're generally green. But not always. There aren't enough colour variations to fill an entire Paris Top Ten, but if you'll allow me a little personal indulgence I'll try to supply you with ten Wallace Fountains which all offer you their own personal story, interwoven with mine. Santé!

Sab's Top Ten Paris Wallace Fountains
No.2) ~ "Better Red Than... Green?"

A red Wallace Fountain? Preposterous! Who ever heard of such a thing?

And yet there it is. And a little oiseau told me it's not the only one, but this'll do for now.

Guess where it is? Think red, think national flags, think huge ethnic quartier of Paris in the 13th...

Got it now? Yes, it's in the Paris Chinatown area, just down the road from the legendary Tang Frères. Nice.

Well I like it anyway. It's so refreshing to see something different. I always wonder what had to be done to obtain the right to transreddify such a strong symbol of the city. I'm assuming it's official, because that's the way things are done around these parts. There's no way it would stay red if it hadn't obtained an official permit to be so.

Communist connotations are of course less of an issue in a country with a strong communist tradition and a generally favourable and anodyne image, although their sun has to all intents and purposes set.

An intriguing characteristic of the Wallace Fountains, including this one, is the entirely apposite curling dragon on the four side panels which can only be described as distinctly... Chinese.

I assume this is a huge coincidence and I don't know why there's a Chinese dragon thingy on a Scot's Wallace Fountain but there you go. Another of the city's great mysteries which I'd be mightily obliged if someone could solve for me.

The ladies, of course, are 100% Wallace in a curvy, sensual precursor to the art nouveau designs to come. The date on this one is 1872, with the sculptor given as Charles Le Bourg, so we're in the throes of impressionism here, and Van Gogh is still a teenager.

I read one post where someone was seriously seeing red at the idea of blood-hued Wallaces dripped around the city.

Personally, I like it, as long as it remains the exception and not the rule. Wallace Fountains, as a rule, are green, and so they should stay. It's the city's cultural heritage after all, and the deep, dark green generally melds with the surroundings very pleasantly.

Having said that, I wouldn't be against a Wallace Fountain of each and every colour of the rainbow to give city scourers something to go chasing after.

It occured to me that if I headed out on a cold and uncluttered winter evening with a can of spray paint, I could probably achieve this result myself without too much effort. Not that I'm going to do so. Probably. I already have too many of my own brand of Paris street art to get out there to be messing around with one more crazy idea. But someone will. Mark my words, someone Will.

Discover all my Paris Wallace Fountains 

* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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