Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jacques Soufflot ~ July 22, 1713 ~ August 29, 1780

Jacques Germain Soufflot (July 22, 1713 – August 29, 1780) was a French architect in the international circle that introduced Neoclassicism. His most famous work is the Panthéon, Paris, built from 1755 onwards, originally as a church dedicated to Sainte Genevieve.

Image & Text:wikipedia.com

My brother Sherry and his family lived right across from the Pantheon at #1 Place du Pantheon, when he was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Paris in the early '80's. I visited them for my 31st birthday. Below is a re-posting from October 3, 2008:

For my 31st birthday, Mother and Dad gave me a week in gay Paris Ah, April in Paris…..but ………….with Dad and Mother! We stayed with Sherry and Sallie at their wonderful apartment (rented from Georges Clemenceau’s granddaughter) at Nombre 1, Place du Pantheon. My birthday dinner was at café Le Procope, the oldest coffeehouse in Paris (possibly in Europe) and a favorite hangout of Jefferson and Franklin’s.

Sherry drove me to Fontainebleau so I could see the famous horseshoe staircase, from which Napoleon delivered his farewell to the troops at the time of his first abdication. I took the metro and walked to La Malmaison— an extraordinary house and furniture collection. Unfortunately the rose gardens have not been maintained.

[Did you know that Josephine's given name was Rose? And that her first cousin, Aimee du Buc de Rivery, was captured by Barbary pirates, sent to Constantinople, put in the harem, and was either the actual mother, or guardian of Mahmud II, Turkish Sultan at the time of Napoleon's invasion of Russia? There's a recent novel, "Seraglio," by Janet Wallach, who doesn't explore the possibility— but I've read an earlier book "The Veiled Empress" by Morton, who suggests that Mahmud II secretly broke his treaty with Napoleon soon after the Josephine divorce – the old blood is thicker routine – and that this may have been the critical difference in Napoleon's defeat in 1812. Counterfactual history is fascinating speculation, but, of course, guarantees absolutely nothing. I wrote a separate post on Aimee on May 28, 2009.]

I had spent my first day in Paris, as part of a fortnight holiday in Britain, a year and a half before. So I figured I could do the reverse, and spend a weekend in London to see my friend Jeffrey, as part of my week in Paris. Remember that this was a gift from Mother and Dad – and it came with strings. Mother had wanted me to go along with them to Mont-Saint-Michel that weekend. So I telephoned Jeffrey to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it.

As a result, I was available to have dinner with an ex-girl friend of Boyd Jarrell’s, then baritone soloist and cantor at Grace Cathedral. He had given me Lynn Davis’ phone number. When I called to take her to lunch, she invited me to dinner instead.

Sallie said it was a very good address, and recommended I take a potted plant, rather than cut flowers, since a hostess preparing dinner wouldn’t want to have to deal with them. The florist shop insisted otherwise. And when I got to the door, and was met by a liveried servant, I realized that it was not an issue.

Lynne had invited me to dinner at the home of her friend—whom I later learned was her fiance— Pierre Firmin-Didot, a publisher, and chairman of the Chartres Cathedral Organ Competition. Lynn was a church and concert organist, originally from Michigan, and had met Pierre the year she won the organ competition.

At dinner were several other guests, including an Australian photographer. That turned out to be a very fortunate coincidence. As I related to Dennis many times, this dinner was one of the few occasions in my life that my table manners matched my surroundings. I must have thought of Mother. I think I was actually the last one done. But partly that was due to conversation.

Learning that M. Firmin-Didot was chairman of the Chartres organ competition, I talked about my first day in the Cathedral the previous year. As a preface, I related a story I had read about the Persian Room nightclub at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Evidently the policy had been to overheat the room, and then suddenly drop the temperature several degrees immediately before a performance. That had a tendency to wake up the audience. And the chill down one's spine wasn't entirely a result of the music.

At this point, the conversation came to an abrupt halt. What was this foolish young American talking about? But I managed to pull it out of the fire. I said that when I entered the front door of Chartres Cathedral on a glorious, warm May afternoon, the temperature inside was immediately cooler; but the chill down my spine was due entirely…to the splendor of the stained glass and the magnificence of the architecture within. There was an audible sigh……. then conversation resumed.

M. Firmin-Didot had a wing in the Hotel (townhouse with a courtyard in front) originally built for Louis XV's finance minister. His family owned the building, and he shared it with several relatives. Hearing that a professional photographer was among his guests— and had his camera in the car— M. Firmin-Didot offered to show us his entire section of the house. He had needed to have some photographs taken for insurance purposes.

So I saw Voltaire’s death mask in the library, and an extraordinary marquetry commode given to Madame de Pompadour by Louis XV. I counted at least twenty bergeres and fauteuils in the main salon—with its beautiful boiserie. And with the groupings, the room didn’t look crowded. I think I also recognized several paintings…..which did not appear to be copies.

All in all, it was an extraordinary evening – thanks to Mother’s insistence that I go to Mont-Saint-Michel with them, instead of London to visit Jeffrey.

I regret I thought I couldn’t afford the airfare a few years later, when I was invited to Lynn and Pierre’s wedding in Michigan. I’ve seen her only a few times since.

The weekend in Normandy at Mont-Saint-Michel was indeed glorious. It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to go. I had just wanted to wait to go with Gary someday. But it’s a good thing I did then, because I have not yet returned.

I remember Sallie’s eating mussels at every possible occasion at Mont-Saint-Michel. Sheridan says she still has a passion for them. I also have fond memories of playing with Sheridan and Morgan around the cloister, in the turrets, and on the walls.

Lynn and Pierre were married for nearly a quarter century. I understand that Lynn is now a widow. But Pierre was considerably older.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

謝謝原PO的熱情分享 大家也要一起分享喔 感恩(≧ω≦)............................................................

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)