Monday, 3 December 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Major Diss, or Just An Idiot?"

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

The title says it all: quirks and curiosities. And as luck would have it, Paris is packed with them; you just have to know where to look!

In this on-going series I offer you some hand picked, photographed and commented oddities which particularly interested me, and I hope will do the same for you.

I'm an avid collector of such items so any comments and suggestions you may have would be very welcome. So, without further ado, let's get straight onto...

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 1 ~ "Major Diss, or Just An Idiot?"

This is probably my favourite quirk in or around the Louvre, and as you'll find out, there are quite a lot to choose from. Well, this one and No.1 from my 20 Free Paris Quirks of course, which is also really cool.

Anyway, I've already told you where this is, although you might have been able to guess for yourself, it being, after all, probably the most famous museum, and ex-palace of kings in the world!

Yes, it's the Louvre, and what we are looking at here is quite breath-takingly surprising.

The emperor was, let's face it, the Big Dawg of his time, and you didn't mess around with matters of such literally monumental importance as his name or his initials, now did you? Welll, let's have a look, shall we?

This is one of two little bell tower-type stuctures sitting cutely atop a couple of wedgy decapitated pyramidish-type things (you're not on Paris If You Please for a course in architectural terminology, remember that!). They are towards the end of the two wings that extend down towards the Tuileries and Place de la Concorde, and are embellished with some gold decorations all around the edge of a little black or grey railing.

So far, so good. Now imagine yourself with Place de la Concorde behind you and you're looking towards the magnificent (or abominable - I cater to all tastes here) Louvre pyramid in the Cour Napoléon. Napoleon's court, indeed! And up high on your left and right are these two little 'lanterns' as I seem to remember they call them - ah hah, it's all coming back to me now!

"Major clue: the bird isn't flying backwards,
but maybe something else is!"

Looking more closely at the one on your left, you can see that the gold decorations are in fact letter 'N's modestly topped with a crown. Nice. Look closely at the 'N's. They look very... 'N'-like, don't they? Yes, they do.

Now look across to the opposite little lantern on your right. You might have to walk to and fro between them to see the details properly. And the 'N's on this on? Well look at the close up picture on the right here to see just what all the fuss and this entire quirk is about...

My best clue is: no, the bird isn't flying backwards! But the precious 'N's are! Whoever was responsible for putting the sacred initial on top of this legendary building... got them the wrong way round!

I haven't heard of an official reason yet, and indeed articles on this are practically non-existent, so you're reading a rare piece here folks!

My theory is that he was either a serious Napoleon-hater and this was his way of showing the ultimate disrespect he was capable of. Either that, or he was a complete idiot, or perhaps just illiterate, in which case he probably wasn't the best person for the job, but then again maybe he was a simple labourer who couldn't tell his 'N's from his navel and just shoved them up any old how. At least he got the crown the right way up!

Of course I'd be delighted to hear your theories, or perhaps informed opinions on this incredible screw-up. I mean, people lost their heads for less in those days!

* 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...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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