The Fontaine des Médicis in the Luxembourg Garden, Paris. [Photo by a blind flaneur]
I went straight to the fontaine des Médicis. There was nobody there; but the spirit of the place held me at once and I could not go. When I had been in Paris with Anna long ago we had used to come here every day; and now when I had stood in silence for a moment I could not but believe that if I waited she must come. There is something compelling about the sound of a fountain in a deserted place. It murmurs about what things do when no one watches them. It is the hearing of an unheard sound. A gentle refutation of Berkeley. The pied plane trees enclosed the place. I approached slowly. Today there was hardly a trickle down the green steps and the tall grotto swayed only slightly in the water on which a few leaves floated lotus-like. On the steps fantail pigeons waded in to drink deeply. Above them the lovers lay immobile, she in a pose of abandoned shyness exposing an exquisite body, while he cups her head in a gesture which is too concerned to be called sensual. So they lie, petrified into stillness by the on eyed gaze of huge rain-marked, weather-stained, pigeon-spattered, dark-green Polyphemus, who leans over the rock from above and sees them. I stood there for a long time, leaning against a marble urn and meditating upon the curve of her thigh. How her right leg is drawn under her, and her naked left leg outstretched in that pure undulation which can lift contemplation and desire almost together to the highest point of awareness, the curve of a reclining woman’s thigh. There she was, braced and yet relaxed, superbly naked and smiling faintly with closed eyes. I waited a long time, but Anna did not come.
Iris Murdoch, Under the Net [pp. 185-6]
Thanks to Ms. Modigliani for retrieving the quote and the memory of our picnic by the Fontaine des Médicis. Grilled panini and fresh cherries — talk about edible drama! Escoiffier couldn’t match that for elegance and ambiance.