Zarafa and the Eiffel Tower

Giraffomania

Zarafa and the Eiffel Tower

Described by his son Jean-Marie Aynaud as a humanist; art lover with an astonishing flair, and passionate “imagier” (collector of images), Adolphe AYNAUD (1887-1971) gathered during his life a splendid iconographic collection concerning Zarafa. In the “biographical chronicle” devoted to his father, Jean-Marie reproduces the speech given by his father on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower on May 16, 1959, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Société du Vieux Papier:

“The 19th century was marked by two top-level important events that kindled Parisians’ humanity and enthusiasm: in 1827, the arrival of the first giraffe in France, and in 1889, the birth of the EIFFEL Tower. Despite the 62 years that separate these two events, they are, after all, interdependent! In fact, when, after many disputes over possible locations (Place du Trocadéro or elsewhere) it was decided that the Tower, the great attraction envisaged for the exhibition, would be built on the Champ de Mars, facing the old Trocadéro; EIFFEL endeavored to endow this field which was then a vast network of interconnecting rabbit burrows with a drill field, with a monument that would harmonize with this kind of wasteland. Who knows the true reason for his choice? Was it due to personal aesthetics, subconscious memories by the former resident of the Jardin des Plantes or to an effect of metempsychosis? None of his biographers have addressed this question of the genesis. In any case, the Tower, once completed, came to synthesize the fauna of the desert: the Giraffe with four feet in the sand and a long neck drawn towards the sky, at night towards the stars.

When I presented the Giraffe on television a few years ago; the announcer, Mr. DEMAGNY asked me why I was so sympathetic to this animal. I explained to him that my love of animals had made me realize that amongst them, the most peaceful was the giraffe because of its habit of seeing things from above and from afar. Well, it is the same for the Tower. From on high it never ceases to pick up true or false voices… and the network of waves that surrounds it gives it a mysterious halo that attracts the fervor of poets, painters and scientists. But both of them, despite their serenity, are helpless alas, to ward off the calamities they can see on the horizon. My admiration of greatness, rest assured, will stop at the 19th century and at this Third Republic, which helped Gustave Eiffel, against all odds, to endow France with a monument that has become a landmark the world over. EIFFEL, like all geniuses, broke with conventions; at the time to build with stone, to instead innovate and build with metal thereby surpassing the era, along with his cursed contemporaries VERLAINE, GAUGIN, VAN GOGH, RENOIR, etc… who are also for a large part today, the glory of France. As VALÉRY said: “Genius is opposition.” ”

(Source: ADOLPHE AYNAUD (1887-1971), Autodidact, art lover and collector, Biographical chronicle by his son Jean-Marie AYNAUD, private document, February 2006)

Olivier LEBLEU

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