Its site was occupied by a fountain known as the fontaine Richelieu until 1838, when it was demolished due to interfering with traffic flow. Joseph Régnier, a member of the Comédie-Française, suggested a new fountain set back slightly from the previous fountain's site as a monument to the playwright Moliere. This was France's first national public subscription for a commemorative monument dedicated to a non-military figure. Built in 1844, the fountain was designed by several sculptors, headed by the architect Louis Tullius Joachim Visconti, who also designed the fountain in place Saint-Sulpice.
The main bronze sculpture, showing Moliere seated under a portico under an imposing arch, is by Bernard-Gabriel Seurre (1795–1875) and cast by the fonderie Eck et Durand. Under him is an inscription flanked by two marble female sculptures by Jean-Jacques Pradier (1792–1852), 'Serious Comedy' and 'Light Comedy' - each holds a scroll listing Moliere's works. Right at the bottom are lion masks, from which the water pours into a semi-circular basin. A commemorative medal for the fountain's inauguration was designed by François Augustin Caunois in 1844 - an example of it is in the musée Carnavalet (ND 0367).
- (in French) Marie-Hélène Levadé et Hugues Marcouyeau, Les fontaines de Paris : l'eau pour le plaisir - Paris, 2008 - ISBN 978-2-915345-05-6
- (in French) Daniel Rabreau, Paris et ses fontaines - Paris, 1997 - ISBN 978-2-905118-80-6
- List of works by James Pradier Sculpture
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- (in French) Gallery of photos on the "Paris 1900" site