In 1874, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s (1827-1875) Les Quatre Parties du monde soutenant la sphère céleste (The Four Parts of the World Supporting the Celestial Sphere), also referred to as the Fontaine des quatre-parties-du-monde (Fountain of the Four Parts of the World), was installed at the southern end of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris (Figure 1). By interrogating the Fontaine’s site and iconography vis-à-vis the Second French Empire, this paper demonstrates that the monument celebrated science as constitutive of French statecraft and empire-building and signaled the institutional relationship of science and politics that justified and support-ed French colonialism. Thus, the Fontaine reveals itself to be a powerful expression and agent of Napoléon III’s regime, as well as an embodiment of its contradictions; beneath the façade of objective and unbiased scientific empiricism, the Second Empire outwardly championed progressive ideals as it built and sustained itself on imperial and racial conservatism.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2022 Hoyon Mephokee