Gian-Niccold Servandoni, 1732 Completed by Chalgrin, c.1770
The original designs of Saint-Sulpice were made by an Italian, but the result, completed twenty years before the French Revolution, is simply Republican. Republican, clearly, in Chalgrin’s additions: the left-hand tower, and the organ-case which could have been pirated for a Town Hall facade at any time during the Third Republic – and a damned good job it would have made, too. But scale and freedom flow through every bit of Saint-Sulpice: in the airy interior, with austere light streaming in through the clerestory windows and particularly in the original and noble west front – two strong horizontal layers, then two short towers10 – which in spite of the description is one unit, not a muddle. The best part is the effect of the outer bays of the upper layer, which are above the aisle roofs. The eye, expecting black space, gets a shock view of clouds and sky instead.
Don’t miss the easternmost chapel, behind the apse, which was decorated by Servandoni. It is the equal of anything at Versailles; the central oval is pierced to reveal a ceiling above, which shows that even the sluggish Lemoyne could be kicked into talent. Outside, the apse is cantilevered out over the street like the projectionist’s box in le Pagode (see page 115).
Paris Subway Map Photo Gallery
Restaurant Vagenende, 142 boulevard Saint-Germain
A complete Art Nouveau room, mirrored and panelled from end to end, aided by original posters and a jukebox phonograph which happily provides the opposite of romantic illusion with a deafening blare and clanking. A meal here would be memorable anyway; a reminder of what we smashed so idly in 1914. But there are three more, Parisian, differences: first that it is not expensive, second that it is not self-conscious and third that it provides good home cooking. Here, a few yards from the Deux Magots, is an epitome of the difference between artistic and arty.
Rue de Furstemberg
A short, straight street on the north side of the over-praised and grossly over-painted church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. In the middle it splits and widens: the small central space contains four big trees and one ornate four-branched street lamp. And the Parisian miracle strikes again: a complete gesture of human recognition yet perfectly formal too. It is just as if a magician had described the area with a wand: possessed ground, rescued from chaos yet protected from discipline. In summer it is jolly; in winter much more malevolent, the black tree-trunks glinting in the rain and the candelabrum presiding in a sinister way like an evil dwarf: this is how Henry Miller saw it. But either way it is memorable.
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