Proposal for the reconstruction of the Tuileries

Project for the reconstruction of the Tuileries palace, elevation of the façade with a central tower
Project for the reconstruction of the Tuileries palace, elevation of the façade with a central tower
Between 1880 and 1885
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour
H. 49.2; W. 67.2 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Projet pour la reconstruction des Tuileries, élévation de la façade avec une tour centrale [Proposal for the reconstruction of the Tuileries, elevation of the facade with a central tower]

Destroyed by fire on 23 May 1871 during the Commune, the ruins of the Tuileries Palace loomed over the centre of Paris for over ten years. As the Republic became more firmly established, those in favour of demolishing the remains of the palace became increasingly insistent. In 1882, the minister of Arts, Antonin Proust, a friend of Gambetta, pushed through a bill to demolish this symbol, which, in the eyes of the republicans, was too compromising to be reconstructed. The last remains of the château were removed in September 1883 but the garden was not laid out until 1889. Although in 1881 Charles Garnier was put in charge of building a museum there, his contemporaries put forward proposals for the redevelopment of this space, gradually abandoning the idea of reconstructing an identical building.

This anonymous proposal demonstrates the variety of solutions that were submitted. There is no reference here to Philibert Delorme's building, rather a colossal central tower appears as a sort of architectural "compilation": the top recalls the Pantheon, the loggias and the pediments in the Paris Opera, and it is also reminiscent of the Gare de Lyon railway station... The tower is surrounded by two low, austere galleries, both joined by a colonnade to the Pavillon de Flore (on the right) and the Pavillon de Marsan (on the left). The overall composition is at once clumsy and powerful because of the abrupt change in scale.
What such a building might have been used for remains a mystery. It was probably intended to be more symbolic than functional. This project brings to mind the colossal Mole Antonelliana (1863) in Turin, revealing the taste at the time for tall structures, of which the Eiffel Tower is the most famous example.

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