Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Sculptural details reward those afoot

Sometimes you feel as though a sculptor caught his subjects mid-sentence, as above where a god appears mansplaining to an unimpressed goddess. The mermen sentenced to forever support a balcony must complain constantly of stiff necks. A saint might appear empathetic to those below; a goddess indifferent. The muses atop the Opera House may be designed to inspire, but the satyr with the glaring eyes is a figure of nightmares. Is the horse heralded for its nobility or merely serving as a sign for a butcher of yore?

So many of Bordeaux’s handsome limestone buildings herald from the same golden age of the port enriched by the slave trade and the export of fine wines. But during the 18th century in particular, facades mattered to both the architects and their clients. They were built to impress. Much like elegant flowers of royal icing on a cake, sculpture lends character and beauty to the streetscape.

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