Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Photo: © MAP
Imagine what might have been Google Earth in the 17th century and you’ll get “France In Miniature” – “La France en miniature”. This is the title of an astonishing exhibition displaying 16 scale models of France from a unique collection begun under Louis XIV.
The Grand Palais, with its enormous glass roof, flooded with dazzling winter light is a spectacular sight on its own. To make it even more spectacular, for one month it will host a rare exhibition showing sixteen historic scale models of fortified French towns arranged geographically correctly around a huge map of France.
It was Louis XIV who began the collection in 1668, a king known for leading his wars out of his bedroom. Others expanded it until 1873. Louis XIV sent out teams of engineers and topographers to produce exact models of some places of military interest. The models made of wood, paper, silk and metal were clearly created for military purposes and helped the central government prepare defensive operations.
Now you might ask why these models are so spectacular. It’s because they are part of a cultural heritage that you never get to see and you wouldn’t even suspect that it existed. Or did you know that under the golden roof of the Dome des Invalides exists a museum called the Musée des Plans-relief? I bet you didn’t. Here, at the Grand Palais, you can admire the most spectacular pieces of the collection – a collection that is not only beautiful but also instructive. You can see how borders have changed, how cities have been planned, realized and often been destroyed in the end.
The most impressive of these scale models is the one of the Norman town of Cherbourg, measuring 160 square metres. Or look at Brest: the scale model shows the historical Brest while the noises of the bombing during World War II help you to remember the scale of the destruction.
Looking at the scale models you can easily imagine that it took years to assemble them. Even Louis XIV wasn’t indifferent to their beauty: In 1700, for the first time, he proudly presented his collection in the grande galerie of the Louvre.La France en relief – France in miniature