“Fontaine Medicis”, the jewel of the Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank in Paris, France. It’s one of my favorite places in one of my favorite cities. Almost hidden from sight beneath a canopy of trees, it is not uncommon to be missed entirely by casual travelers strolling through the famous park. A loss indeed.
The fountain dates from 1864-66, although the first version was built around 1630 for Marie de Medicis (widow of King Henry IV). A scene from Greco-Roman mythology dazzles visitors — two lovers in white marble, Acis and Galatea, embracing on a pedestal on the tree-shaded fountain. Galatea, according to Ovid, was loved by the giant one-eyed son of Poseidon, Polyphemus (the Cyclops who was blinded by Odysseus in “The Odyssey,” and who cast a curse on Odysseus, hindering his voyage back to Ithaca). Galatea rejected the giant, for she loved the youth Acis. When Polyphemus found the young lovers together, he became jealous and hurled a boulder at Acis, killing him. The sorrowful Galatea then turned the blood of her dead beloved into a river, to live on until the end of mankind. The fountain in Paris shows a bronze Polyphemus on top of a boulder at the moment he discovers the two lovers together. The rectangular bed of water, lined with chairs where modern-day lovers often sit in embrace, is supposed to signify the blood of Acis.
The land on which the fountain is built was declared a National Palace in 1791. Today, the palace at the north-end is occupied by the French Senate.