As I’ve said in a previous blog, I have very few concrete plans for my time in Paris, other than a champagne cruise down the Seine and a Paris Walks tour of the Montmartre district. At our leisure, I’d like to stroll the streets of Paris, do some shopping, see Notre Dame and the Île de la Cité and the Île St-Louis and visit the iconic book and print seller’s stalls along the River. Otherwise, I’d like to show my duaghter the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and I’d like to see the Musée Carnavalet.
Nestled within the Marais district of Paris, the Musée Carnavalet chronicles the history of the capital from its origins to the present. Opened in 1880, this museum is devoted to the history of Paris and occupies two adjoining mansions- the hôtels Carnavalet and le Peletier de Saint-FargeauIts. 100 rooms are housed in two mansions built in the 11th and 17th centuries, with a gallery now leading from one to the other. The Hôtel Carnavalet, after which the museum is named, was once the home of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote a series of famous letters to her daughter. It now hosts the museum’s collections from pre-historic times to the reign of Louis XVI, while the Hôtel Le Peletier Saint-Fargeau contains pieces dating from the French Revolution to the present day.
The museum contains fascinating displays, with each room decorated to reflect a particular historical period through the paneling and furniture, evoking a different feeling with each exhibit.
Many wings of the museum are less like museums than the stately homes they once were. There are rooms dedicated to Chinoiserie, others starkly medieval, with enormous fireplaces occupying most of one wall, and yet more reflecting the tastes of the nobility during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. There is also a reconstruction of Marcel Proust’s bedroom.
The displays include memorabilia from the French Revolution, paintings, sculpture, furniture and ‘objets d’art that recreate the atmosphere of private residences from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The orangery at the hotel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau was built at the end of the 17th century and renovated in 2000. The small courtyard at the entrance of the Musée Carnavalet is home to a sculpture of Louis XIV and the manicured gardens follow the classic 18th century French style.