Le Petit Palais

Preparing for the Expo Universele of 1900 in Paris meant development of new spaces for the show. A bridge (Pont Alexandre III) and two outstanding exhibition halls were built for the occasion. The smaller of the two halls, Petit Palais (small palace) is maybe less grandiose, but equally scenic, interesting and historically significant.

The most iconic part of the building is its principal facade, featuring “Golden Gate”, a master wrought iron craft work announcing the arrival of Art Nouveau in its bold curvatures. Above the gate, a deep archivolt, almost a porch, resting on a set of ionic columns, with a fully decorated tympanum, opens one of the most exquisite entrances ever built for any building. The golden ship, at the top of the gate, a symbol taken from the city coat of arms, appears on the inner facade, this time as a stone sculpture.

The modern interpretation of Ionic order columns encompass the whole exterior of the building, positioned high on the rusticated podium. The interior of the building is a long enfilade of naturally lit rooms with painted ceilings.

The central rotunda leads to the inner courtyard, a lush garden with pools enclosed by a Tuscan order peristyle, the most serene of the building spaces.

The myriad of artistic detail fused to decorate the building were a joint effort of the most celebrated French artisans, sculptors and painters of the time to build another wondrous structure in just less than three years’ time. They didn’t just succeed, they excelled.

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