Tuesday, 15 July 2008

A le quartorze juillet

OK, yep, I know it was yesterday, but I'm catching up, ok!

There are some not so obvious links to France in Sydney, one of them being what is probably our most well-known fountain, The Archibald in Hyde Park.

It was built in 1932, a gift to the city of Sydney under the terms of the will of a Francophile J F Archibald (in whose name also an annual portrait prize is awarded). As a plaque says, Archibald's intention was to "commemorate the association between Australia and France in The Great War 1914-18" and is the work of French sculptor Francois Sicard.

It depicts a bronze Apollo surrounded by other mythical figures. Horses’ heads, dolphins and tortoises exuberantly spray jets of water.

In the 1880s AF Archibald founded the Bulletin newspaper, famous for encouraging an Australian idiom in Australian writing. But in his own life Archibald was fascinated by all things Parisian. He changed his name from John Feltham to Jules Francois and wore a little French style beard when no one else was wearing them. In donating the Archibald Fountain to the City he imagined its civic design and ornamentation developing to rival the city of his dreaming.

A postcard to the first person who can correctly name the three mythological characters from each of the sculptural groupings shown below!


  1. I reckon that the bottom shot shows Diana. The first would be a minotaur with Theseus. Apollo would be the bloke on the pedestal. That might be 2 out of 9 ?

    In any case, Bon Quattorze Juillet to you, Sally !

  2. Hyde Park - and especially this plaza - is the heart of Sydney for me. My spirits always lift as I come down that wide avenue from William Street. I even thought that Clover had improved it by removing the diseased trees between the AF and St Mary's and replacing that area with landscaped perennials. Now I juat want those hideous "tents" to be gone.

  3. This fountain has a very Art Deco feeling - sleek statuary. I love those exuberant turtles, too.

  4. NIce tribute, merci beaucoup, Sally. It is still the quatorze juillet here in Westport as I am writing to you (a little bit past 10 PM), so for me it was not too late :-))

    I think I spotted the Minotaur and Artémis/Diane, and that's it.

    Believe it or not, I have just come back from a lecture about mythology at the Westport public library.

  5. Je pense :
    Thésée et le Minotaaure
    Jason et la Toison d'Or
    Diane chasseresse

    No ?

  6. Nathalie in Avignon15 July, 2008 15:24

    I think the people before me have got it right. But I am fascinated by the history behind the fountain. How many times have I been there - and I had no idea it was donated by the same Archibald whom we owe the Archibald prize to nor that he was francophile. Thanks for that!

  7. Yes, it's Theseus and the Minotaur and Diana the Huntress (and Apollo on top). I can't find anywhere on the net an actual name for the young man who is looking after the bountiful earth, so M Benaut and Marie are both correct; I will wander up tomorrow and have another look at the explanatory plaque (it is half hidden under a veil of water!)

    So, more tomorrow!!

  8. What a fabulous fountain - well, more than that, amazing, extraordinary, magnique!

    So fascinting to read about the man who donated the Archibald prize, which of course we all know about. And fascinating too to read of his life and how he changed his name, etc.

    Great stuff, Sally!

  9. Oh *head banging keyboard* - I know who the thirs one is.....click on the photo to enlarge it, and the clue is in his right hand!

  10. This fountain is spectacular! I'm too late for the answers but I'm very interested in reading them.

  11. I never knew the man existed until I returned your visit to my blog. I am glad I did as this post has the details as well as the photos that describe the man and what he did. I think the fountain is one of the nicest I have ever seen.

  12. These are cracking pictures. I only recognise the minotaur though, I'm obviously not very classically educated! lol.

  13. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw these photos was that if these statues were in the US, the private parts would have been "covered up".

    Our first attorney general under GWB had the naked breasts of a statue in the Justice Department "concealed" behind some curtains because he was uncomfortable with women's bossoms. :-)