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Paris place Vendôme

Updated on June 8, 2015
The Place Vendôme Column-Paris
The Place Vendôme Column-Paris | Source
Place Vendome in 1814 with the troops of the 6th coalition. The Statue of Napoleon was replaced by a white flag
Place Vendome in 1814 with the troops of the 6th coalition. The Statue of Napoleon was replaced by a white flag
Litho Napoleon column
Litho Napoleon column


At the beginning was Louvois surintendent of Buildings, Arts and Manufactures (1683), which allows him to take control of the construction of the Palace of Versailles (he took the place of Colbert when he died).
Louvois wanted to leave also a mark of its surintendence in Paris. He combined the project (1685) with architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart ( he built the wings of South and North of Versailles, with the dual extension of the facade designed by Le Vau) who felt an opportunity to speculate and get rich. They convinced king Louis XIV, the sun king, to build an imposing place in Paris.
The place was originally intended to receive the main institutions of the Kingdom: the Royal Library, academies, the Mint ...
What is extraordinary is that only the facades of buildings were built, investors had to build the rest of the building!
But, as funding for the project was problematic, the king was advised to divest the land to the city of Paris (1699), under the condition that the faces designed by Mansart be kept. The existing faces where destroyed to reduce the size of the place, ans they had to be rebuilt as Mansart had planned!
The place was named "Place des Conquêtes" in 1685 (place of conquests to commemorate those of Louis XIV) and later (1699) it was named place "Louis Le Grand" (Louis the Great) with an equestrian statue of the Roi Soleil (sun king) in the center. As soon as XIXthe century (1799) the place was named Place Vendôme, from the name of the Hotel de Vendôme which was purchased with convent des Capucines by Louvois for Louis XIV.
The most fortunate people of the time settled there (as banker John Law the "inventor" of paper-money, which settled there in 1718, under the regency of the Duke of Orleans).

During the 1st french Revolution the statue was put down by the revolutionists in august 13, 1792. The place was named then "Place des Piques" (place of pikes) because revolutionaries held there heads of aristocrats after pikes. An effigy of the Republic was erected in 1795 to replace the equestrian statue of Louis XIV. The column was erected in the center of place Vendôme in 1810 by order of Napoléon 1st in homage to the Grande Armée and the victory of Austerlitz. The column was made in bronze with
1 200 guns taken in trophy to the enemies (Russian and Austrian). The column is decorated in the manner of ancient bas-reliefs representing trophies. Composed of 98 stone rock drums, it is covered with a spiral bronze on which Pierre Bergeret carved an allegory of imperial victories of 220 meters long. At the top was the statue of Napoleon. A door located in the basement leads to a staircase which allows to access to the platform that lies beneath the statue. During the Restoration, the statue was replaced by a flag to the fleur-de-Lys. Napoleon III render honors to his uncle by ordering the sculptor Auguste Dumont a statue of him in "Caesar imperator", draped in a short coat and carrying the glory, the sword and winged victory, still visible today.

The column was shut down during the Paris Commune in 1871 (the place was named "place Internationale), and then reinstalled by the third republic government.


The Place now

From 1898, since the Hotel Ritz was built, the place and the Rue de la Paix have attracted the most famous names of french and international luxury. Now Place Vendome, located between Opéra, la Madeleine, Tuileries garden and Le Louvre, is always the smartest place in Paris with prestigious names of the luxury Cartier, Guerlain, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chopard, Bulgari, Giorgio Armani, Mikimoto...

Theplace gives its name to a horse race (prix de la place Vendôme) and is the
starting of a car race devoted to women the "rallye des princesses".
By enlarging the map below you'll have the name oh each building of place Vendôme, its history, and the name and place of the great names of luxury.

Rue de la Paix and place Vendôme by a rainy day by Edouard Léon Cortes
Rue de la Paix and place Vendôme by a rainy day by Edouard Léon Cortes | Source
Rue de la Paix and place Vendôme in a rainy evening by Edouard Léon Cortes
Rue de la Paix and place Vendôme in a rainy evening by Edouard Léon Cortes | Source

The Place in Arts

In painting

The place Vendome has inspired many painters such as Edouard Leon Cortes, Antoine Blanchard, Van Dongen ...

In music

German singer Michael Kiske created "Place Vendôme" group in 2005. Their music is a kind of hard-rock melodic soft - (listen an audio) - Lyrics
A record named "Place vendôme" by the swingle singers a Universal Music Division Jazz

In cinema

The place gave its name to a french film in 1998 : Place Vendôme directed by Nicole Garcia. Catherine Deneuve staring.
Le Cercle Rouge (Red Circle - 1970) directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, Alain Delon and Yves Montand. In thatmovie we see a car driving around the place. staring

In theatre

"Place Vendôme août 1944" by Alain Houpillart.
A short fictitious meeting , in August 1944, between Coco Chanel, who spent the war at the Ritz with a German officer and Hemingway who, after landing in Normandy, joined Paris in order to liberate the hotel on the Place Vendome .These two characters will clash, tell, tear, and gradually reveal their dark side.

In litterature

In "Le père Goriot" of Balzac, the writer says about Rastignac, after the burial of Goriot
"His eyes almost focused avidly between the column of the Place Vendome and the dome of Les Invalides, where lived this beautiful world in which he tried to penetrate. He casted a look on this buzzing hive that seemed to pump honey in advance, and said these grandiose words: -- A nous deux - (Now I am ready for you)

Some point of view about luxury

For me the place Vendôme, in front of which so many people are enthusiasm, always feel me faint. Too much wealth spread, too much perfection, and not enough "real life"! All these cars, one of
the most luxurious than others, these shops with people entering, living on another planet than us... Finally, the thing that really interests me is that the place is a place of history.

Hector Bianciotti, a writer born in Argentina and writing in french, expresses very well what I feel. "Place Vendôme is the perfection ... the triumph of Versailles, definitively on the disorderly city, chaotic ... but me, who loves symmetry and order, and moderation, I think that it is poor. Beaudelaire has already said it - The imperfection is necessary for a work of art. The imperfection is not the top of a work of art, but there must be an imperfection to really see the beauty&quot - Here I feel a lack of shops, a carpenter, even a cordonier, it would be great. A shoemaker, yes! A craftsman!"

The Place Vendôme was born under a dual sign : power and luxury. We saw that in each crucial period of the history of France, was recalled this symbolic aspect. The people focused, when he revolted, on this symbol of absolutism and a wealth unsustainable at time of misery. What should we think of shoplifting luxury that represents the Place Vendome in a difficult period for many people he positive aspect is the creation and the beauty.
Without the luxury industry, many jobs, know-how would be losed. As the beauty, who does not admire a beautiful object, to appreciate the work of an artist? But on the other hand, this world of luxury is it not the excessive side of our civilization in its taste of unbridled consumption? Having always more, always best, always more beautiful, more expensive?
Why don't I have what have the others, what I saw in the street, in magazines, newspapers, on the Internet? From my point of view, what is shocking is not that luxury exists, but the gap (increasing) between those who can afford a watch for 15 000 dollars and those who lack $ 100 to finish the month! And this is nothing compared to the most expensive watch in the world: 1.87 million Swiss francs in an auction (Vacheron)! Where is the ethical, where is morality?

How many people would be saved from death (hunger, disease ...) with such a sum? In these times of crisis, which represents the Place Vendome seems complete mismatch with problems of society.
Imagine how many people have been driven out from their homes because of their difficulties of loans repayment, could be helped with such a sum!

As in all things, the excess is harmful. Excess of those who wanted to put everyone on an equal footing,
killing entrepreneurship, the possibility to flourish in their work, sacrificing individual liberties for the benefit of collective and dévoluant the enjoyment of the goods of this World to a handful of oligarches. But keep in mind that education, care, transport were often accessible to everyone in these societies...

On the other hand, we have those who, in a rushing ahead for seeking an ever greater profits don't mind fot inequality, the miseries they cause. The solution? For my part I think the hope is through the awakening of conscience. Pure utopia?
I don't think so, look around us. Besides those who profit égoistically of their wealth, regardless of the state of the world, a number of very wealthy people spend part of their fortune (and we do not blame them to do their shopping Place Vendome!) helping their neighbour through charitatives associations.

There are among them many artists, sportsmen, but also financiers and contractors who come together within associations (Open Society Institute, Fondation Bill & Melinda Gates ...) ... Beauty of things? Yes, but above all, relational beauty, this is the most important!

I hope this article will be read and that you will give your opinion on the gap between luxury and realities of life. Of course, this is a point of view and I am always wary of those who believe hold the single truth!

© 2015 Discover the World


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