The Botanical Gardens and its Menagerie

In 1793, the botanical gardens and a zoo were opened to the public. The purpose was not only for pleasure: revolutionaries wanted to create a kind of small-scale republican ideal, which would conserve, in one location, all living creatures. In the garden, strollers were invited to reconnect with nature and educate themselves through contact with vegetal species from all over the world. The menagerie was more than just a zoo, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre wrote about the necessity of a zoo at the Botanical Gardens: "the need to establish nature's most interesting kingdom in a place intended for the study of natural history. There will be resulting advantages for the advancement of the arts, sciences and philosophy...

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The politicized love of the elephants Hans and Marguerite

Taken from the zoo of Prince William V during the invasion of the United Provinces (currently the Netherlands) in 1795, two elephants named Hans and Marguerite were brought to Paris. French scholars wanted to prove that the Republican regime had a better influence on animals than a regime of tyrants. Very quickly, the pachyderm couple’s slightest comings and goings were scrutinized: were they in the process of becoming genuine animal citizens? After having spent eight weeks with them, the painter Jean-Pierre Houël, persuaded that the environment in which they now lived allowed them to evolve, depicted them in the process of mating like humans. Even if he entitled this imagined scene "Enactment of Elephants Reproducing," certain people undoubtedly came to the conclusion that the Republic had a civilizing influence over animals.

Elephants Depicted in an Embrace for the Very First Time, after They Were Played Music
Elephants Depicted in an Embrace for the Very First Time, after They Were Played Music
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