The Fontaine Saint-Michel (fɔ̃.tɛn sɛ̃.mi.ʃɛl) is a monumental fountain located in Place Saint-Michel in the 5th arrondissement in Paris. It was constructed in 1858–1860 during the French Second Empire by the architect Gabriel Davioud.
The fontaine Saint-Michel was part of the great project for the reconstruction of Paris overseen by Baron Haussmann during the French Second Empire. In 1855 Haussmann completed an enormous new boulevard, originally called boulevard de Sébastopol-rive-gauche, now called Boulevard Saint-Michel, which opened up the small place Pont-Saint-Michel into a much larger space.
Haussmann asked the architect of the service of promenades and plantations of the prefecture, Gabriel Davioud, to design a fountain which would be appropriate in scale to the new square. As the architect of the prefecture, he was able to design not only the fountain but also the facades of the new buildings around it, giving coherence to the square, but he also had to deal with the demands of the prefet and city administration, which was paying for the project.
- The critical reaction to the fountain when it was opened in 1860 was divided. Much attention was given to the different colors: The critic of Le Monde Illustré wrote: "the monument constitutes, in sum, a venture into polychrome architecture such as one can see in Rome, where fountains of the same style were created by artists of the 18th century.".
- The critic Alfred Darcel in Gazette des Beaux-Arts was less enthusiastic: he condemned the fountain for its choice of colors, its composition, what he called its incoherent style and iconography, and because, in his view, the concentration of so many different statues by different artists nullified the individual talents of the artists.
- Other critics condemned the statue for its placement against a wall, instead of in the center of the Square. It was, said one, "a placement frequent in Paris, but vicious for monuments of this grandiose style."
- In fact, the Fontaine Saint-Michel was the last monumental wall fountain built in Paris, the end of a traditional Renaissance style which had begun with the Medici Fountain in the 17th century and continued with the Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons in the 18th century. The later monumental fountains in Paris were all free-standing, in the centers of squares or parks.