France From The Inside

France From The Inside: Art Nouveau and World Heritage in Nancy

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Bordered by the river Meurthe at the heart of Lorraine, Nancy is acclaimed as the City of the Goden Gates and the cradle of French Art Nouveau.

Once capital of the Dukes of Lorraine, Nancy has always been keen to adapt and pursue its cultural vocation. The 18th century brought some superb architecture framed by the famous Golden Gates and some 150 years later, the city welcomed a new school of artists devoted to the revolutionary style of Art Nouveau.

Savvy travellers come to Alsace Lorraine to discover a splendid World Heritage site, learn about Stanislas the Benefactor, visit some of the finest museums in France and gaze at the renowned Daum crystal glass.

Art Nouveau and Daum Crystal Glass in Nancy, France

Art nouveau set up its own school in Nancy in eastern France around 1901. The new art in Lorraine intended to break with the past, adopting smooth sinuous lines inspired by the natural world. From crystal and stained glass to furniture and decorative objects, the Nancy School blossomed, led by Daum, Galle and Majorelle.

Today, at the heart of Lorraine, Nancy boasts the world’s only Art Nouveau museum, showcasing multi-talented artists, while a walk around town reveals fine examples of the period’s architecture. Among them are the Brasserie Flo Excelsior, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and villas in the Saurupt district, some with a touch of the later more stylised Art Deco.

Daum crystal is still going strong, with a thriving local manufacture, exclusive boutique on Place Stanislas and stunning exhibition in Nancy’s Fine Arts Museum.

Stanislas and World Heritage

Nancy owes much of its fame to a deposed Polish king. When Stanislas sought refuge at the French Court, his son in law Louis XV entrusted him with the care of the somewhat unsettled province of Lorraine. Sixty year old Stanislas vowed to spend his personal fortune helping the poor and embellishing his adoptive city. He cleared the marshlands and built a superb architectural complex linking the old and new districts.

The three squares at the heart of town were granted World Heritage status in 1983 for their fabulous ensemble of 18th century architecture. Place de la Carrière, a former jousting ground, boasts fountains and statues and the partly colonnaded Government Palace, the quiet Place de l’Alliance is graced by a lovely Italianate fountain.

Golden Gates in Alsace Lorraine

But most glorious is Place Stanislas, the city’s landmark, originally named Royal Square in gratitude to the French King. It’s a vast open space, framed by a Triumphal Arch and lined with classical buildings such as the Theatre, Townhall and Fine Arts Museum.

The superb Golden Gates were created by Jean Lamour, with finely crafted wrought iron covered in gold leaf. Classical fountains enhance the overall effect while an impressive statue of Stanislas looks down on the square, recently renovated and reserved for pedestrians and stylish café terrace.
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