The key to identifying this piece was the inscription on the base: “Ch Lebourg SC 1872”. The photograph is a great example of how a fairly decent picture can be ruined by not looking carefully around the subject to see if there are any distractions. It was late in the day. I’d been walking for a couple of hours and was looking at a long walk home. So my excuse is that I wasn’t concentrating at this point. If I had been I might have noticed the ugly garbage container and done something to hide it behind the sculpture. This mistake annoys me so much that I almost didn’t include this picture. In the end I decided to let it go, despite the garbage can, because I like the story behind it.

This piece was created by Charles-Auguste Lebourg, and it was a so-called Wallace Fountain. According to Wikipedia:

Wallace fountains are public drinking fountains designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg that appear in the form of small cast-iron sculptures scattered throughout the city of Paris, France, mainly along the most-frequented sidewalks. They are named after the Englishman Richard Wallace, who financed their construction. A great aesthetic success, they are recognized worldwide as one of the symbols of Paris. A Wallace Fountain can be seen outside the Wallace Collection in London, the gallery that houses the works of art collected by Sir Richard Wallace and the first four Marquesses of Hertford.

Apparently the fountains were designed by Richard Wallace ( himself and intended them to be beautiful as well as useful. The fountains had to meet several strict guidelines:

  • Height: They had to be tall enough to be seen from afar but not so tall as to destroy the harmony of the surrounding landscape.
  • Form: Both practical to use and pleasing to the eye.
  • Price: Affordable enough to allow the installation of dozens.
  • Materials: Resistant to the elements, easy to shape, and simple to maintain.
  • The locations, as well as the color (a dark green, like all urban development of that era, in order to blend in with the parks and tree-lined avenues), were quickly decided upon by the city government.

Wallace created two different models, which were followed by two additional models, so, in all, there were four types of Wallace fountains varying in such properties as height and motif. The material that was used to create them was cast-iron. Inexpensive, easy to mold, and robust, it was one of the most popular materials of the age. The majority of the cost was paid for by Wallace. The city of Paris allocated 1,000 francs for the large model and 450 francs for the wall-mounted model.

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