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29 Avenue Rapp – Lavirotte Art Nouveau

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Art Nouveau - 1890-1910

29 Avenue Rapp could be simply qualified as 'Art Nouveau at its best'!

This ‘new art’ inspired from Nature’ s organic forms and patterns was in fact a reactionary style.

This style was an escape from the unimaginative, eclectic and often boring neo-Gothic - neo-Renaissance style of the 19th century.

It indeed has a wealth of elaborate wreaths and garlands of flowers and plants, animals, curved lines and arabesques adorned jewelry, furniture, ceramics, wrought iron and sculptures!

Like or dislike Art Nouveau, but you can’t remain indifferent!

The Art Nouveau period lasted only 20 years, from 1890 to 1910!

However, it is now officially recognized as the transition from the academic style of the 19th century to Modern architecture of the 20th.

And it spread throughout Europe like a tsunami!

French Art Nouveau was consecrated when Emile Gallé, Louis Majorelle and Victor Prouvé (3 influential artists of the era) founded the Ecole de Nancy.

You most likely know Hector Guimard for his magnificent Art Nouveau Metro entrances and canopies in Paris.

But do you know the architect Jules Aimé Lavirotte?

Lavirotte studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Lyon and in Paris under the tutelage of the architect Paul Blondel.

He remained famous for his eccentric, lavish and even frenzied Art Nouveau style on the edge of Rococo.

Jules Aimé Lavirotte

The nine buildings he built in Paris around 1900 (mostly in the 7th district) are an incontestable testimony to his talent and unique approach to Art Nouveau architecture and decoration.

If you like Art Nouveau, forget the long queues for the many Parisian tourist sites.

Go discover the seven-storey building he built in 1901 at No. 29 Avenue Rapp.

It's a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower.

I assure you that the lavishly decorated building at No. 29 Avenue Rapp won’t leave you indifferent!

Some will find it downright kitsch, others will recognize it as a pure masterpiece of Art Nouveau.

Lavirotte indeed made great use of flowers, fruits, plants and animals elaborate patterns to adorn the facade and balconies of No. 29 Avenue Rapp.

He didn’t embark alone in this creation though, but went in partnership with some fellow Art Nouveau artists and friends.

No. 29 Avenue Rapp

He therefore incorporated the beautiful tiles created by the ceramist Alexandre Bigot (St-Jean-de-Montmartre Church) into the brick and stone work of the facade.

These created an amazing display of colourful patterns.

Lavirotte was the precursor in Western Europe of this unusual style that combines traditional materials and ceramics.

The facade is magnificent, but the front door and its frame are a joint masterpiece!

The set was designed by Jean-Baptiste Larrivé and sculpted by Théobald-Joseph Sporrer, Firmin-Marcelin Michelet and Alfred Jean Halou.

Many people come to take pictures of the entrance at No. 29 Avenue Rapp.

However, few notice the erotic character of the decoration!

Many 'well-thinking' detractors of the time didn’t miss it though and considered it an outrage against society!

Indeed, if you look at the patterns formed by the wooden boards and window panes you clearly see an upside down phallus!

A woman’ head, said to be in the image of Madame Lavirotte, stands above the door and seems to watch over this giant phallus.

But it does not stop here.

You can indeed also see two naked figures on the upper part of the sculptures that flank the door.

A languorous and sensual Eve in a somewhat provocative posture stands opposite Adam who seems to have much trouble hiding his manhood.

The handles of the doors are even in the shape of lizards (lézard was a French slang word of the time used to refer to male genitalia).

Everything in the decoration exudes unrestrained eroticism.

All this was enough to shock the prudish souls of the era!

This didn't stop Lavirotte (and his friends) from winning the annual contest for the most beautiful facade in Paris in 1901 (Concours des plus belles facades de Paris) for their astonishing and lavish work at No. 29 Avenue Rapp.

Take time to admire the facade.

You will discover asymmetrical patterns and shapes and a wide array of subtle colours.

You will also find more unusual (but less erotic) sculptures such as bulls' heads and turtles serving as a fulcrum for balconies.

Have a close look at the friezes.

They are adorn with a wealth of peacocks feathers, snakes, scallops shells and acanthus' leaves...

You will not fail to fall in love with the sophisticated arabesques of these wrought iron balconies, the architectural signature of Lavirotte.

Similarly to his sculptures, they stand out for their lavish, almost Rococo appearance, the lush style of the Belle Epoque at which Lavirotte excelled!

No. 29 Avenue Rapp is a gem of Art Nouveau architecture and is a classified  Historical Monument.

No. 3 Square Rapp

Lavirotte has left us another example of its architectural eccentricity at No. 3 Square Rapp, just round the corner from No. 29 Avenue Rapp.

The facade, much sober than that of No. 29 Avenue Rapp - at least for the taste of the era - bears the signature of Lavirotte: his beautiful and sophisticated wrought iron balconies.

We never tire of admiring his work, it's a true pleasure!

No. 4 Square Rapp

Lavirotte designed also the building at no3 Square Rapp, just round the corner from no29 Avenue Rapp.

The façade is much sober - at least for the taste of the era – and is adorned with Lavirotte’s beautiful and elaborate wrought iron balconies.

Square Rapp boasts another outstanding building.

The Salle Adyar was built in 1914 and is a superb illustration of early Modern architecture.

The Italian style theater, which has 381 seats, is also a classified Historical Monument.

It became known in the 1950s when Yves Nat chose it for the recording of Beethoven’s complete sonatas.

No. 29 Avenue Rapp and No. 3 and No. 4 Square Rapp are exceptional!

Take the time to make the detour to admire them.

Directions: 7th district
Metro: Alma Marceau on Line 1 + cross over to Left Bank
RER C stations Pont de l'Alma
Coordinates: Lat 48.859105 - Long 2.300857

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