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Pont Alexandre III, Paris

One of the surprising features of the bridges of Paris is that they are generally small, simple bridges with few ceremonial and decorative elements. Aside from the mascarons on the Pont Neuf, and a few obelisks and statues here and there on the ends of some other bridges, the Seine bridges are remarkable for their clean elegance and restraint in decoration.

However, they made up for it all on Pont Alexandre III. To celebrate the dedication of the bridge to the Czar of Russia, the Pont Alexandre III has been riotously decorated with allegorical stone statues, gilt bronzes, and carved stone garlands. Each of the four corners of the bridge has an enormous 50 foot-high stone pedestal topped by a gigantic gilded statue of a winged horse and other figures. The pedestals are each formed of four pillars, and encased from top to bottom in carved stone decorations. The base of each pedestal has a 25 foot-high stone statue of an enthroned figure representing the France of Charlemagne, the Renaissance, Louis XIV, and the contemporary era. The equestrian figures on top of the pedestals are also allegorical, representing the Fame of Arts, Sciences, Commerce, and Industry.

The front of the arch facing upstream is decorated with figures representing the Nymphs of the Seine and the coats of arms of Paris. The side of the arch facing downstream is similarly decorated with the Nymphs of the Neva and the coats of arms of Russia. The crazy decoration continues along the curve of the arches and on the balustrades. The curve of the arches is decorated with a stone-carved, geometric, nautical-themed pattern. Along the base of the deck, carved garlands are draped from the deck across the open spandrel below, with carved faces spaced along the deck at the top of every second pillar of the open spandrel. The balustrade is a series of urn-shaped stone pillars spaced between small monuments that support lampposts. The color scheme of the entire structure is a light gray with bright gold gilded highlights, and topped by the black cast iron and frosted glass of the ornate lampposts. The bases of the lampposts are all decorated with cast-iron figure sculptures with a nautical theme, including nymphs surrounded by fishes, frogs, and crabs.

Although I included this bridge in a general walking tour of the Paris bridges in Chapter 9 of my book, Bridgespotting: A Guide to Bridges that Connect People, Places, and Times, I also provided a more detailed description of its decorations in Chapter 4 of the book.

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