If you walk in the vicinity of Palais-Royal, you may spot a monumental fountain at the corner of the rue Molière and the rue de Richelieu. This is the Fontaine Molière (or Monument à Molière), a fountain raised to the honour of the great French writer.
Fontaine Molière – a bit of history
The present-day square Place Mireille is the location of Molière’s death on 21 February 1673. In fact, Molière is said to have died at ten o’clock in the evening at 40, rue de Richelieu.
In 1838, a house was demolished opposite the one where Molière had died. The plan was to build a fountain topped by a nymph statue in the space left vacant.
However, François-Joseph Regnier, a member of the Comédie-Française, took advantage of this happy coincidence to relaunch the project to raise a monument to the honour of Molière. He sent a letter to the prefect of the Seine to request that the allegorical figure of the future fountain be replaced by that of the statue of Molière, which would then be financed by a national subscription.
Finally, Régnier’s proposal was approved. The national subscription was a first for a commemorative monument dedicated to a civil figure.
Work on the monumental fountain ended in 1844. It is the work of several sculptors under the direction of the architect Louis Tullius Joachim Visconti and the contractor Antoine Vivenel. The two men also created the monumental fountain in Place Saint-Sulpice.
What does the monument look like?
The main bronze statue, enthroned under a portico with an imposing pediment, represents Molière seated. It is a creation of the sculptor Bernard-Gabriel Seurre (1795-1867) and was cast by Eck and Durand.
Moreover, two female marble allegories, La Comédie sérieuse and La Comédie légère, flank the pedestal and are the work of Jean-Jacques Pradier (1792-1852). They each hold a scroll listing the works of the great playwright.
Pradier is also the author of the Genius of the Pediment.
Finally, on the lower level, lion-headed masks spit water into a semi-circular basin.
A medal commemorating the inauguration of the Molière fountain was produced by the engraver François Augustin Caunois in 1844. The Carnavalet Museum has kept a copy of it.
Find out more!
- Discover 5 sites of Molière in Paris
- Read our guide to the First Arrondissement of Paris
- Find out more about the life of Molière on Wikipedia
- Get Molière: The Complete Richard Wilbur Translations (For the 400th anniversary of Molière’s birth, all of Richard Wilbur’s unsurpassed translations of Molière’s plays are brought together for the first time in this two-volume gift set.)
- Watch L’Avare, a fun theatrical play from Molière starring Louis de Funès (DVD on sale at Amazon)