D - as Dauphin (Dolphin)

Gargoyle – Louvre courtyard


Dolphins, playing in the sea
The wave is bitter gruel.
Does my joy sometimes erupt?
Yet life is still so cruel.

 The Dolphin - from the Bestiary
Guillaume Apollinaire

There are still few gargoyles,  pretty well hidden in some corners of the Louvre courtyard … the best preserved ones have still wide mouths; but the times have been very cruel for most of them … 

D - as Dragon

Entrance to the Dragon Court,
50, rue de Rennes
Atget – 1898

The dragon sculpted by Paul Ambroise Slodtz in 1732 gave its name to the former Dragon Court.  Though listed, all the buildings and the courtyard were demolished in 1930-1935 and the sculpture was removed and taken to the Louvre museum in 1955, where it is today displayed in the Cour Puget. The dragon above the door of the modern building, 50 rue de Rennes is, therefore, a copy. When Atget took the photography, the courtyard was essentially occupied by craftsmen, steelworkers, copper smiths, plumbers and scrap merchants. It is well described by Anatole France in his book about his younger years: The Bloom of Life (1922).    

The rue de Rennes did not exist at this date, and to gain access to Dragon Court you had to go down a narrow alley and pass under an arch above which a fearsome dragon writhed and twisted. It is a very excellent example of the ornamentation of the Louis XV period, and is still in existence. They have painted it green now. It would have been better to leave it stone grey. In the far-off days of which I speak it was colored a bright red, which increased the horror of its aspect. And one got the impression that a terrible roaring noise was proceeding from its fiery throat, for, as you approached it, your ears were assailed by an uproar compared with which the noise of the fulling-mills, which so daunted the courage of Sancho Panza, were but a dulcet murmur. This ear-splitting din was, if the truth must be known, produced by hundreds of hammers smiting simultaneously on iron.

E - as Elephant

The elephant of Moulin Rouge
Atget – vers 1900



The architecture and decoration of the legendary cabaret Moulin Rouge was created in 1889 by the artist  Willette. Until the cabaret was completely renovated in the fifties, there was a huge open garden with a café concert in summer. On the side of the garden, there was a big stucco elephant from the World Exhibition. Only men could get inside the animal where they could enjoy live entertainment and belly dancers.

F - as Faisan Doré (Golden Pheasant)

Rotisserie « Au Faisan Doré » - Old house
50, rue de Seine
(Musée Carnavalet)


With its beautiful feathers, especially those that gild its head with a brilliant yellow, the golden pheasant is an aviary animal above all. Good for it! It thus can escape from hunters and the pan. However, its name is still a good one for the sign of a roaster or butcher, evoking a game roasted to a perfect golden brown or appetizing golden pies…

The Golden Pheasant sign is a classic of its kind still today for inns, taverns and delicatessens. As for the one in the rue de Seine, the house is gone.

F - as Faune (Faun)

Jeu de Paume – Tuileries Garden - Faun


This sculpture is a marble copy of the Borghese Faun, an antique statue. It was completed by Anselme Flamen during his residence in Rome from 1675 to 1679 and taken to France upon his return to Paris. It can be seen today at the Domaine de Sceaux. Previously, from 1797 to the 20th century, it was in the Tuileries Garden and then moved to the Louvre Museum.

The sculpture represents a faun carrying the young Bacchus, born from Jupiter's thigh where he was placed after his mother was killed by Juno, furious with Jupiter's infidelity. As a child, Bacchus was put under the care of nymphs and of the Faun Silenus, his foster father and tutor.

G - as Gorgone (Gorgon)

Hydras of brilliant green begirt their waist;
Snakes and cerastes for their tresses grew,
And these were round their dreadful temples braced.

Each with her nails her breast tore, and did smite
Herself with open palms. They screamed in tone
So fierce, I to the Poet clove for fright.

“Keep thine eyes closed and turn to them thy back,
For if the Gorgon chance to be displayed
And thou shouldst look, farewell the upward track!”
Thus spake the Master, and himself he swayed
Me round about; nor put he trust in mine
But his own hands upon my eyelids laid.
O ye with judgment gifted to divine
Look closely now, and mark what hidden lore
Lies ’neath the veil of my mysterious line!

Inferno – Canto  IX - Dante

  • Gorgon Medusa
    110, rue Vieille du Temple
    (Musée Carnavalet)

G - as Griffon (Gryphon)

Au Griffon
10, rue de Buci
Atget – 1911



Getting a gryphon feather, a mythological quest … a prodigious symbol for a shop selling feather quills …

G - as Guêpe (Wasp)

A steam-tug, bearing the name “Guêpe 16”, built in 1888. Its big smoke-pipe could be lowered when passing bridges. These tugs disappeared progressively in Paris with the new motorized barges.

This way for a stroll along the Seine …

  • Pont- Neuf - Quai des Grands Augustins
    (Musée Carnavalet)

G - as Grue (Crane)

For lack of coal, the crane flew away…

  • Crane discharging coal
    Quai de la Râpée
    (Musée Carnavalet)

H - as Hirondelle (Swallow)

Rue de l’Hirondelle
(Musée Carnavalet)

The word poulets (Chickens), a slang French term for cops, is still used nowadays in reference to the former poultry market located at 36 quai des Orfèvres (Criminal Police's home until 2017).
The word hirondelles (Swallows) is a term no longer used for the specific police officers riding a bicycle of the brand Hirondelle since they disappeared in 1984. When I was a child, I used to see these police officers passing by in my street, on their bicycle with their large black cape floating like wide wings.

H - as Homard (Lobster)

Detail of Cuvier Fountain
Atget – 1905/1906

The Cuvier fountain is a bestiary in itself. This rather baroque, even nightmarish fountain is topped with an allegory of natural history surrounded by a whole representation of the fauna. Here, a green bronze fish, looking like a snake, seems to spit out its venom, under the pain of the lobster, Holy Eminence of the claw.

Lobster, pasha of the sea,
Lobster the blue, lobster the red,
Lobster, the backstroke swimmer,
Lobster, if you stir, you move.

 Lobster, hermit of the rocks,
Lobster, bad boy, good prince,
Lobster, the glory of the market
Lobster, Holy Eminence of the claw.

The Lobster - Storysongs - Robert Desnos

L - as Lapin (Rabbit)

The artist André Gill painted the sign for this cabaret that looks like a small country house. It was a picture of a cheerful rabbit jumping out of a sauce pan. The artists began calling the cabaret “Le Lapin à Gill” meaning “Gill's rabbit”. Overtime, the name evolved into “Au Lapin Agile”, meaning the Agile Rabbit.

  • Cabaret du Lapin Agile, rue des Saules
    (Musée Carnavalet)

L - as Lézard (Lizard)

Sculpture Ceres and the Lizard
Terrasse du Jeu de Paume
Jardin des Tuileries
(Musée Carnavalet)

This statue from the second half of the 16th century, represents the Earth Goddess, Ceres. It can be seen today in the Louvre museum. As per Ovid's metamorphoses, the Goddess changed a child into a lizard. The story says that the goddess, thirsty and tired, stopped by a house where an old woman offered her a sweet drink of roasted barley. While she was drinking, a mocking boy called her greedy. Whereupon the offended goddess turned the boy into a small lizard. Be careful not to offend the earth!

Mutilated, she demands of man: “For what

this devastation? What fruit swells in a desert?
    Why kill the plain so green?”
She finds no use in our malicious wills,
and mourns the virginal beauty of the fields
  dishonored by pure ruin.

The Earth - A Hymn - Victor Hugo

L - as Lièvre (Hare)

Staircase, Escalier, Hôtel de la Grange
(built for Thomas Le Lièvre de La Grange in 1673)
4 et 6 rue de Braque
(Musée Carnavalet)



Combining the hare and this handsome mansion built for Thomas Le Lièvre Seigneur de la Grange is a bit far-fetched, I quite admit … Though, in the end, animals are also well represented, like the dragon, horse and crocodile on the vault of the porch. And last, but not least, it allows me to share this superb photo of the staircase!

L - as Lion

Cabaret - Rue des Vinaigriers
Atget – 1924/1926



O lion, miserable image
Of kings lamentably chosen,
Now you’re only born in a cage
In Hamburg, among the Germans.

The Lion - The Bestiary - Apollinaire

Follow the link to Bestiary - From M to V

Copyright Year 2020 - Martine Combes - text and photos of today Paris