The Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries) is a public garden and an outdoor gallery after a fashion, as placed throughout the park are numerous sculptures by, among others, Coysevox, Lawrence, Rodin, Abakanowicz, Cragg and Lichtenstein. But most of all, it is a beautiful enclave of manicured nature for Parisians to enjoy.
The Tuileries Gardens were founded by the widowed Catherine de Medici in the 16th century as a private, Italian style garden adjoining the new Tuileries Palace. It was the site of the slaughter of the Swiss Guard trying to fight off the mob who had come for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It also housed countless celebrations and military parades.
In July 1559, after the death of her husband, Henry II, Queen Catherine de Medicis chose to move from her residence at the chateau of Tournelles, near the Bastille, to the Louvre Palace, along with her son, the new King, François II. She decided that she would build a new palace there for herself, separate from the Louvre, with a garden modelled after the gardens of her native Florence. At the time there was an empty area bordered by the Seine on the south, the rue Saint-Honoré on the north, the Louvre on the east, and the city walls and a deep moat on the west. Since the 13th century this area was occupied by workshops, called “tuileries”, making tiles for the roofs of buildings. Some of that land had been acquired early in the 16th century by King Francois I. Catherine acquired more land and began to build a new palace and garden on the site. She commissioned a landscape architect from Florence, Bernard de Carnesse, to build an Italian Renaissance garden, with fountains, a labyrinth and a grotto, decorated with faience images of plants and animals, made by Bernard Palissy. The resulting garden was an enclosed space 500 metres long and 300 metres wide, separated from the new chateau by a lane. It was divided into rectangular compartments by six alleys, and the sections were planted with lawns, flower beds, and small clusters of five trees, called Quinconces; and, more practically, with kitchen gardens and vineyards. The Tuileries was the largest and most beautiful garden in Paris at the time. Catherine used it for lavish royal festivities honouring ambassadors from Queen Elizabeth I of England and the marriage of her daughter, Marguerite de Valois, to the future Henry IV.
However, when King Henry III was forced to flee Paris in 1588, the gardens fell into disrepair. His successor, Henry IV (1589-1610), and his gardener, Claude Mollet, restored the gardens and built a covered promenade the length of the garden, and a parallel alley planted with mulberry trees, where they hoped to cultivate silkworms and start a silk industry in France. Mollet also built a rectangular basin 65 metres by 45 metres with a fountain supplied with water by the new pump called La Samaritaine, which had been built in 1608 on the Pont Neuf. Though Henry IV never lived in the Tuilieries Palace, which was continually under reconstruction, he did use the gardens for relaxation and exercise.
In 1610, at the death of Henry IV, his son Louis XIII, age nine became the new owner of the Tuileries Gardens. It became his enormous playground – he used it for hunting and kept a menagerie of animals. On the north side of the gardens, his mother Marie de’ Medicis established a school of riding, stables and a covered manège for exercising horses. When the King and court were absent from Paris, the gardens were turned into a pleasure spot for the nobility. In 1630 a former rabbit warren and kennel at the west rampart of the garden were made into a flower-lined promenade and cabaret. The daughter of Gaston d’Orleans and the niece of Louis XIII, known as La Grande Mademoiselle, held a sort of court in the cabaret, and the “Garden Neuf” of Henry IV (the present day Carousel) became known as the Parterre de Mademoiselle”. In 1652 La Grande Mademoiselle was expelled from the chateau and garden in 1652 for having supported an uprising, the Fronde, against her cousin, the young Louis XIV.
The new king quickly imposed his own sense of order on the Tuileries Gardens. His architects, Louis Le Vau and Francois d’Orbay, finally finished the Tuileries Palace, making a proper royal residence. In 1662, to celebrate the birth of his first child, Louis XIV held a vast pageant of mounted courtiers in the New Garden, which had been enlarged by filling in the moat of Charles V. Thereafter the square was known as the Place du Carrousel.
In 1664, Colbert, the superintendent of buildings of the King, commissioned landscape architect André Le Nôtre to redesign the entire garden. Le Nôtre was the grandson of Pierre Le Nôtre, one of the gardeners of Catherine de Medici, and his father Jean had also been a gardener at the Tuileries. He immediately began transforming the Tuileries into a formal garden à la française, a style he had first developed at Vaux-le-Vicomte and perfected at Versailles, based on symmetry, order and long perspectives.
Le Nôtre’s eliminated the street that separated the palace and the garden, and replaced it with a terrace looking down upon parterres bordered by low boxwood hedges and filled with designs of flowers. In the centre of the parterres he placed three basins with fountains. In front of the first fountain he laid out the grand allée, which extended 350 metres. He built two other alleys, lined with chestnut trees, on either side. He crossed these three main alleys with small lanes, to create compartments planted with diverse trees, shrubs and flowers. On the south side of the park, next to the Seine, he built a long terrace, planted with trees and with a view of the river. He built a second terrace on the north side, overlooking the garden. On the west side of the garden, beside the present-day Place de la Concorde, he built two ramps in a horseshoe shape and two terraces overlooking an octagonal water basin with a fountain in the centre. These terraces frame the western entrance of the garden, and provide another viewpoint to see the garden from above. Le Nôtre wanted his grand perspective from the palace to the western end of the garden to continue outside its boundaries. In 1667, he made plans for an avenue, with two rows of trees on either side, which continued west to the present Rond-Point des Champs Elysees.
Le Nôtre and his hundreds of masons, gardeners and earth-movers worked on the garden from 1666 to 1672. However, he ran out of time: in 1671, the King, furious with the Parisians for resisting his authority, abandoned Paris and moved to Versailles.
In 1667, at the request of the famous fairy tale author, Charles Perrault, the Tuileries as the first ecer royal garden was opened to the public, with the exception of beggars, “lackeys” and soldiers.
After the death of Louis XIV, the five-year-old Louis XV inherited the Tuileries. The garden, abandoned for nearly forty years, was put back in order. In 1719, two large equestrian statuary groups, “La Renommée” and “Mercure” by Antoine Coysevox were brought from the King’s residence at Marly and placed at the west entrance of the garden. Other statues by Nicolas and Guillaume Coustou, Corneille an Clève, Sebastien Slodz, Thomas Regnaudin and Coysevox were placed along the Grand Allée. A movable bridge was placed at the west end over the moat to make access to the garden easier. Certain holidays, such as August 25, Feast Day of Saint Louis, were celebrated with concerts and fireworks in the park. A famous early balloon ascent was made from the garden on December 1, 1783 by Alexander Cesar Charles and Nicolas Louis Robert. Small food stands were placed in the park, and chairs could be rented for a moderate price. Public toilets were added in 1780.
Following the onset of the French Revolution, on October 6, 1789, King Louis XVI was forcibly brought to the Tuileries Palace. Queen Marie Antoinette and the Dauphin were given a part of the garden for their private use, first at the west end of the Promenade Bord d’eaux, then at the edge of the Place Louis XV. After the King’s failed attempt to escape France, the surveillance of the family was increased. The royal family was allowed to walk in the park on the evening of September 18, 1791, during the festival organised to celebrate the new French Constitution, when the alleys of the park were illuminated with pyramids and rows of lanterns. On August 10, 1792, a mob stormed the Palace, and the King’s Swiss Guards were chased through the gardens and massacred. After the King was overthrown and later beheaded, the Tuileries became the National Garden (Jardin National) of the new French Republic. In 1794 the new government assigned the renewal of the gardens to the painter Jacques-Louis David and to his brother in law, the architect August Cheval de Saint-Hubert. They conceived a garden decorated with Roman porticos, monumental porches, columns and other neoclassical decoration. The project of David and Saint-Hubert was never completed. All that remains today are the two exedres, or semicircular low walls crowned with statues by the two ponds in the centre of the garden.
While David’s project was not finished, large numbers of statues from royal residences were brought to the gardens for display. The garden was also used for revolutionary holidays and festivals. On June 8, 1794, a ceremony in honor of the Cult of the Supreme Being was organised in the Tuileries by Robespierre, with sets and costumes designed by Jacques-Louis David. After a hymn written for the occasion, Robespierre set fire to mannequins representing Atheism, Ambition, Egoism and False Simplicity, revealing a statue of Wisdom.
In the 19th century, the Tuileries generally was the place where ordinary Parisians went to relax, meet, promenade, enjoy the fresh air and greenery, and be entertained. However, the garden did witness some events of historical importance.
Napoleon Bonaparte, about to become Emperor, moved into the Tuileries Palace on February 19, 1800, and began making improvements to suit an imperial residence. A new street was created between the Louvre and the Place du Caroussel, a fence closed the courtyard, and he built a small triumphal arch, modelled after the arch of Septimius Severus in Rome, in the middle of the Place du Carrousel, as the ceremonial entrance to his palace. In 1801 Napolen ordered construction of a new street along the northern edge of the Tuileries, across the space that had been occupied by the riding school and stables built by Marie de’ Medici, and the private gardens of aristocrats, convents and religious orders that had been closed during the Revolution. This new street also took part of the Terrasse des Feuillants, which had been occupied by cafés and restaurants. The new street, lined with arcades on the north side, was named the rue de Rivoli, after Napoleon’s victory in 1797.
Napoleon made few changes to the garden itself. He continued to use it for military parades and to celebrate special events, including the passage of his own wedding cortege on April 2, 1810, when he married the Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria. After his fall, the garden briefly became the encampment of the occupying Austrian and Russian soldiers. The monarchy was restored, and the new King, Charles X, renewed an old tradition and celebrated the day of Saint-Charles in the Tuileries.
In 1830, following a brief revolution, a new King, Louis-Philippe, became owner of the Tuileries. He wanted a private garden within the Tuileries, so a section of the garden in front of the palace was separated by a fence. A small moat, flower beds and eight new statues by sculptors of the period decorated the new private garden.
In 1852, following another revolution and the brief reign of the Second Republic, a new Emperor, Louis Napoleon, took possession of the garden. He enlarged his private reserve further to the west and decorated it with beds of exotic plants and flowers, as well as new statues. In 1859, he made the Terrasse du Bord-de-L’Eau into a playground for his son, the Prince Imperial. He also constructed twin pavilions, the Jeu de paume and the Orangerie, at the west end of the garden, and built a new stone balustrade at the west entrance. When The Emperor was not in Paris, usually from May to November, the entire garden, including his private garden and the playground, were open to the public.
In 1870, Emperor Louis Napoleon was defeated and captured by the Germans, and Paris was the scene of the uprising of the Paris Commune. A red flag flew over the Palace, and it could be visited for a small fee of fifty centimes. When the army arrived and fought to recapture the city, the Communards deliberately burned the Tuileries Palace, and tried to burn the Louvre as well. The ruins were not torn down until 1883. The empty site of the palace, between the two pavilions of the Louvre, in time was incorporated into the garden.
At the 1900 Summer Olympics, the Gardens hosted the fencing events.
In the years between World War I and II, the Jeu de paume was turned into a gallery, and its western part was used to display the “Water Lillies” by Claude Monet. The Orangerie was turned ino an art gallery for contemporary Western art.
The liberation of Paris in 1944 saw considerable fighting in the garden. Monet’s paintings in particular suffered serious damage.
Until the 1960s, almost all the sculpture in the garden dated to the 18th or 19th century. In 1964-65, André Malraux, the Minister of Culture for President Charles de Gaulle, removed the 19th-century statues that surrounded the Place du Carrousel and started the process of replacing them with contemporary sculptures.
In 1998, under President Jacques Chirac, works of modern sculpture by Jean Dubuffet, Henri Lawrence, Etienne Martin, Henry Moore, Germaine Richier, Auguste Rodin and David Smith were placed in the garden. In 2000, pieces by living artists were added; these included works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Bourgeois, Tony Cragg, Roy Lichtenstein, Francois Morrellet, Giuseppe Penone, Anne Rochette, and Lawrence Weiner. Another ensemble of three works by Daniel Dezeuze, Erik Dietman, and Eugene Dodeigne, called “Priére Toucher” (“Please Touch”) was added at the same time.