At 27 metres high and positioned in front of what seems to be a small garden it offers a curious contrast to the tourist-filled esplanade today. I had though forgotten about this photograph until I walked into the Square Edouard Vaillant in the 20th arrondissement and saw the remnants of something that looked vaguely familiar.
How did such a grandiose monument end up in a quiet and hidden corner of the city? In reality, it is perhaps fortunate that anything managed to survive at all.
The Gambetta monument would eventually become one of these, but it did survive untouched until 1941. This year was a terrible one for statues in the city as the Vichy government stripped the metal from all monuments not celebrating saints and royalty for the purposes of agricultural and industrial production (weapons!). Without the bronze figure at the top of the plinth, the statue could not survive, and it was removed altogether in 1954.
Chopped into smaller pieces, it disappeared from public view until 1982. Most parts would have been destroyed altogether, but near thirty years after it was removed, the chunk featuring Léon Gambetta was brought back into the public eye in the quiet Square Edouard Vaillant opposite the Hopital Tenon.
Postcards commemorate a vision of the city at a particular time, not just its physical aspect but also the tastes and attitudes of that particular era. Staues may seem deep rooted and permanent, but they do not guarantee eternal life for those celebrated in stone and metal after death. Feted one year, these personalities can be completely forgotten the next.
Gambetta lives on in Paris in this small stone block, and as a Place and an Avenue - as well as in this postcard! However, for those curious to see exactly what the complete monument looked like, an original scale model still exists in the Musée d'Orsay. It perhaps lacks the extravagant dimensions of the true monument, but it is still two and a half metres high!