Here’s an idea for a statue that the Paris art community and Napoleon thought would be a great idea. How about if theymade a Bronze statue of an Elephant? After the fall of the Bastille the revolutionaries and citizens of France decided that rather than leave it a smoking rubble ruin it might be nice to have something there artistic instead. This would certainly be a boost to the tourist trade, which had taken something of a dip following the guillotining of the countries Aristocrats and the Terror. The thinking seems to be “well, elephants, everyone loves them”.
Laudable though it is to have a bit of Bronze Wildlife Sculpture hanging around Napoleon should have gone and looked at the Wildlife Sculpture from Gill Parker first as he would have found a wonderful range of choices and beauty. Instead he wanted something showy and only a 78ft Elephant would do.
By this time all of the Bastille had been removed and used as hardcore for the Pont da Concord and several other Paris bulding projects. The debate as to what to put in the place of the Bastille was a point of some discussion. There had to be something to celebrate it but they wanted something that spoke of France’s glorious future rather than its feudal past. Napoleon was keen to make sure that people were aware of his many famous military victories and as luck would have it they had plenty of spare bronze knocking about from all the captured cannon following his victory at the battle of Friedland against the Russians. He had a word with Pierre-Francois Palloy who was getting lots of work at the time and had just installed a Fountain with an Egyptian theme that Napoleon liked, particularly as that was a country where he had won a fair few battles. It was going to be a huge beast with a staircase up the back so people could have a nice view of Paris. It even had a howdah on it which is a tradition Raj viewing platform when on top of an Elephant.
Palloy soon had his head down getting ready to melt down the cannons but he decided that it might be a good idea to put a plaster version up first to make sure it could be done. With this duly in place and with Paris all excited disaster struck. Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and had to go and live on St Helena. This is a small island that has no room for a 78ft bronze statue of an elephant so the idea was canned.
Victor Hugo took the mickey out of it in Les Miserables and the whole thing had to come down as locals found that rats had began to use it as a nest.