Not only is Le Pont Neuf à Paris Hermès carré one of my favorites, so is that part of Paris itself.
A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to stay at a friend’s flat on the Île Saint-Louis, the small neighboring isle in the Seine, next to the bigger Île de la Cité, which gave me the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful and special part of Paris.
The view from Pont des Arts towards Île de la Cité with Notre Dame in the background and Pont Neuf connecting the isle to the rest of Paris, takes my breath away each and every time I stand on this bridge, home to thousands of “love” locks left by romantic tourists.
Pont Neuf connects the Île de la Cité to what locals call the “mainland”, the rest of Paris: the Marais arrondissements to the north, the Saint Germain neighborhood to the south and the Latin Quarter to the southeast.
Monsieur Ledoux, the great illustrator of so many stunning Hermès scarves, captures life on the bridge, which I learned has played a very important role in Parisian history.
Although Notre Dame being unquestionably the most famous of all the structures on this small natural island, Monsieur Ledoux does not showcase it per se on his scarf. His is after all a tribute to the bridge itself and its place in history. Ironically the Pont Neuf, The New Bridge, is now the oldest of the Parisian bridges and one out of 37, that span across the Seine.
Construction of the Pont Neuf began in 1578, was completed in 1606 and inaugurated by Henry IV in 1607, who was the French Monarch at that time and father to Louis XIII.
As a matter of fact the statue at the center of the scarf is that of Henry IV, which was erected in his honor after his death and still pays tribute to him in the center of the bridge today.
It was Henry IV, who insisted on omitting buildings and houses on the bridge as not to obstruct the view of the Louvre – so it is said. It was also the first bridge of its kind, that was pedestrian friendly, boasting sidewalks and bastions for pedestrians to evade large carriages, which were starting to crowd the streets of Paris. I am not sure that being pedestrian friendly was necessarily the main goal, but possibly a positive byproduct, as commerce and the flow of goods across the Seine were the primary objectives. Pont Neuf was to connect Paris and promote commerce and trade.
Henry as a new ruler, who wanted to make a statement and Pont Neuf, the New Bridge, was going to accomplish that.
A strong bridge built of stone and not wood like its contemporaries. One capable of withstanding a lot of traffic and a lot of commerce. It was also to be wider than its contemporaries. Simply put, it was to be a grand bridge, a statement to the new king, his forward thinking and quite modern approach to urban planning. Pont Neuf quickly became an instant celebrity and was loved by both the poor and rich alike. The Pont Neuf was pretty much what the Eiffel Tower is for Paris today, a huge tourist attraction.
I noticed four different dates, one in each corner of the scarf. Not being a history buff, they did not immediately jump out at me other than perhaps the 1775 and 1792 dates, the other two, I am afraid to admit, did not even cause the slightest of stirs 🙂
So what significance do these dates have, if any? (and here I once again, welcome any input)
1640 – Pont Neuf becomes a celebrity, popular with Parisians of all economic standings; merchants of all kind gather and do business on the bridge. Statue of Henry IV in the background
1775 – Besides the beginning of War with the American Colonies, and the Flour War paving the way for the French Revolution, I cannot find much else??? Oh yes, the Pont Neuf is still very popular with all the Parisians
1792 – French Revolution and fall of the French Monarchy
1860 – Napoleon creates eight new arrondissements and expands Paris to its current limits. And yes, Paris has grown, the bridge has had a facelift and Paris still loves it’s Pont Neuf
Philippe Ledoux has a wonderful way to bring Parisian past to life, not just in this scarf but in so many others, with scarves like Promenade de Longchamps and Promenade de Paris, which I will write about soon.
The Hermès Pont Neuf scarf is filled with fabulous detail, people bartering, chatting, busy going about their lives, little dogs jumping at strangers all the while the grand Pont Neuf and the city around it, are changing, growing and never standing still.
To read more about Pont Neuf itself and the important role it has played in the history of Paris, I recommend an article The Birth of the Pont Neuf, How a simple bridge made Paris the world’s first modern tourist destination by Joan DeJean, Trustee Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of 10 books.