The Place des Victoires is a circular square, located a short distance northeast from the Palais Royal and straddling the border between the 1st and the 2nd arrondissement. At its centre, there is an equestrian statue of King Louis XIV, celebrating the Treaties of Nijmegen concluded in 1678-79.
The square is situated at the confluence of six streets: Rue de la Feuillade, Rue Vide Gousset, Rue d’Aboukir, Rue Étienne Marcel, Rue Croix des Petits Champs, and Rue Catinat. The area surrounding the Place des Victoires is now an upmarket neighbourhood. There are boutiques of fashion designers Kenzo and Claudie Pierlot, as well as ready-to-wear fashion shops like Maje or Zadig et Voltaire. Place des Victoires also hosts The German Forum for Art History and the nearby Galerie Colbert is a home for Institut national d’histoire de l’art.
A marshal of France, François de la Feuillade, on his own initiative, demolished the old mansions on the site. Soon, Bâtiments du Roi, a unit attached to the monarchy, took over his project. Jules Hardouin Mansart, the royal architect, was entrusted with redesigning it, still in the form of a ring of private houses around the king’s statue.
Mansart’s design, of 1685, articulated the square’s unified facades. He chose colossal pilasters linking two floors, standing on a high arcaded base with rustication of the pilasters; the facades were capped with sloping slate ‘mansard roofs’, punctuated by dormer windows. However, because the building work was incomplete at the time of the unveiling of the monument, the envisioned facades were painted on canvas. By 1692, the Place des Victoires was pierced by six streets, and the circular plan functioned as a flexible joint to harmonize their various axes.
The original statue, of Louis XIV crowned by Fame and trampling the Triple Alliance underfoot, in gilt bronze, stood on a high square pedestal with bas-relief panels and effusively flattering inscriptions; dejected bronze figures were seated at the corners.
Royal court permanently abandoned Paris at the end of 17th century. Moving to Versailles, economic crisis caused by several wars and humiliating treaties stifled the king’s imperial ambitions in Europe. The grandiose, yet arrogant in form memorial begun to embarrass Louis XIV. In 1792, during the French Revolution, the monument was dismantled.
In 1793, the Place was renamed Place des Victoires-Nationaux (National Victories Square), and a wooden pyramid was erected on the site of the destroyed statue. In 1810, under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, a nude statue of the General Louis Desaix replaced the pyramid. However, following the abdication of Napoleon, the statue was taken down and its metal was used to create a new statue of Henry IV on the nearby Pont Neuf.
In 1828, the restored Bourbon king, Charles X, commissioned the current equestrian statue, which was sculpted by François Joseph Bosio. Louis XIV, dressed as a Roman emperor, sits on a proud horse rearing on its hind legs. An iron fence encircles 12-metre-high statue.