Arc de Triomphe by night
The Arc de Triomphe is a monument in Paris that stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly the Place de l'Étoile, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It is the linchpin of the historic axis (L'Axe historique) leading from the courtyard of the Louvre Palace, a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route leading out of Paris. The monument's iconographic program pitted heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail and set the tone for public monuments with triumphant nationalistic messages until World War I.
The monument stands over 51 meters (165 feet) in height and is 45 meters wide. It is the second largest triumphal arch in existence  Its design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus; The Arc de Triomphe is so colossal that an early daredevil flew his plane through it.
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It was commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon I at the peak of his fortunes. Laying the foundations alone took two years, and in 1810 when Napoleon entered Paris from the west with his bride Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, he had a wooden mock-up of the completed arch constructed. Jean Chalgrin died in 1811, and the work was taken over by Huyon. During the Restoration construction was halted, and would not be completed until the reign of King Louis-Philippe, in 1833-36.
There was a pre-Napoleonic (1758) proposal by Charles Ribart for an elephant-shaped building on the location of the current arch.
The sculpture representing Peace is now interpreted as commemorating the Peace of 1815 — not the original intention.
Cast of the head of a figure from François Rude's sculpture "La Marseillaise"
The Astylar design is by Chalgrin (1739-1811), in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture. Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Cortot, Rude, Étex, Pradier and Lemaire. The main sculptures are not integral friezes but are treated as independent trophies applied to the vast ashlar masonry masses, not unlike the gilt-bronze appliqués on Empire furniture. The four sculptural groups at the base of the Arc are The Triumph of 1810 (Jean-Pierre Cortot), Resistance and Peace (both by Antoine Étex) and the most renowned of them all, Departure of the Volunteers of '92 commonly called La Marseillaise (François Rude). The face of the allegorical representation of France calling forth her people on this last was used as the belt buckle for the seven-star rank of Marshal of France.
In the attic above the richly sculptured frieze of soldiers are 30 shields engraved with the names of major Revolutionary and Napoleonic military victories. The inside walls of the monument list the names of 558 French generals. The names of those who died in battle are underlined.
The Place de l'Étoile was extensively redesigned by Baron Haussmann, who increased the number of avenues radiating from this star to twelve. In the 1860s he ran a circular road (rue de Tilsitt-Presbourg) round the outside of the houses fronting the Étoile, a planning feature intended to free the Place itself from the crush of carriages that might be expected where so many stylish tenants lived so closely together. Haussmann imposed a uniform design on the house fronts with small gardens at the back giving on to this circular road. Haussmann's memoirs publicly noted that the official façade design, from Hittorff in his own office, was so poor that he had to mask the fronts with trees. But the uniformity complements the Arc's monumental presence. The traffic problem was not resolved, however.