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15 May 2017 / leggypeggy

Museum shows Paris of bygone days

Museum Carnavalet, grand staircase

A grand staircase in the Musée Carnavalet

Paris is overrun with museums, but few give you a true idea of what the city was like, say, at the time of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Luckily, the Musée Carnavalet fills in the gaps beautifully.

Housed in two townhouses in the Marais district, the Carnavalet is the city’s oldest municipal museum

We had the luxury of spending an afternoon there, exploring the more than 100 rooms that hold more than 600,000 items.

There are paintings galore showing scenes of Paris in bygone days, as well as countless re-creations of rooms in styles ranging from the 17th to the 20th century. Clocks were an important feature in every room, and I seem to have taken way too many pictures of them. Sorry!

Museum Carnavalet

Room occupied by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

Museum Carnavalet

Room occupied by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

One of my favourite displays was the re-creation of the Temple Tower rooms where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were imprisoned for about six months in 1793. Later royalists viewed the Temple Tower as a sign of the suffering faced by their royal family after the French Revolution. To keep the tower from becoming a destination for pilgrims, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the tower destroyed in 1808.

The fact that the furnishings from those rooms still exist at all is thanks to donations and the estates of Jacques-Albert Berthélemy, an architect who lived in the tower, and Jean Baptise Cléry, the king’s last valet.

Art Nouveau jewellery shop, Carnavalet Museum

Fouquet’s extraordinary jewellery shop, designed by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha

My other absolute favourite was the gorgeous art nouveau shop owned by jeweller, George Fouquet.

The entire room is from the original jewellery store designed by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha in 1901. Fouquet donated his shop in its entirety to the Carnavalet, and it was reassembled as it was. It’s a small room brimming with colour and grandiose, a completely preserved Belle Epoque work of art. I could live in this space.

Some other special exhibits are a prince’s cradle and the cork-lined bedroom of French writer Marcel Proust.

Marcel Proust's bedroom

Marcel Proust’s cork-lined bedroom

Prince's cradle

A prince’s cradle

A bit more about the museum and its two townhouses
The idea of a museum devoted to the history of Paris came about during the Second Empire (1852–70), when a large part of the historic heart of Paris was being demolished.

In 1866, at the instigation of Baron Haussmann, the city council bought the hôtel Carnavalet, which had been built in 1548, to house the new institution.

The museum opened in 1880. It has been extended several times and since 1989 it has also occupied the adjoining townhouse, hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, built in 1688.

P.S. I mentioned earlier that, in French, the word ‘hôtel’ often refers to a mansion and not an actual hotel.

Musée Carnavalet clock

French room, Museum Carnavalet

67 Comments

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  1. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:34 am

    Carnavalet is one of my all-time faves. Never crowded, it’s like one’s own chateau. We were so tuckered though, we almost collapsed on Marcel’s bed (an episode I include in my ‘Forward To Glory’ saga, v.3). I’m mostly a fan of 1789-1920s, but the Enlightenment items are fantastic. Thanks for the tour. Place is looking good!

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 6:36 am

      Yes indeed, the Carnavalet is a top museum. Pity it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I hope this little offering helps.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:36 am

    PS: V. Hugo’s house is intriguing, the Pantheon is awesome, Picasso & Rodin are musts…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:38 am

    La Defense is the ‘other’ Paris – a brilliant plan, to put the modern glass & steel where it can’t ruin the core city (with Montparnasse Tour the exception!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 6:39 am

      Oh yes, La Defense! Stayed there in 2003 on, of all places, Rue de Bitche (spelling)!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:38 am

    Catacombs are as if invented by Ed Poe. Very cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 6:40 am

      Libby and Daniel live around the corner from the Catacombs. It was the first place we visited in 2015, and I wrote about it then.

      Like

  5. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:40 am

    St. Sulpice is incredible – kind of lurid. I went up to the organ loft and met the organist – tremendous!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:42 am

    The ‘Sexy’ museum in Pigalle, nr Moulin Rouge, was very disappointing, however…!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:46 am

    One more for now: if you haven’t done, the view of the city from the dome of Sacre Cœur is boggling!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 6:47 am

      The queue waiting to climb is always too long. Maybe sometime in winter when it’s snowing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:48 am

        Wow – we had it to ourselves. Late in the day, sunset!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 6:50 am

        Will keep that in mind—now heading to bed. We’re in Finland. It’s almost midnight and finally dark-ish!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:49 am

    Will be keen to toddle after you on this one. Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:50 am

    Sandy adds ‘B’jour!’ (or soir!)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. forwardtogloryquartet / May 15 2017 6:52 am

    Got plenty of Finnish stuff to yak about too, but youse guys always are in control! G’night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 3:05 pm

      Oh yeah, I’ll be getting going on Finnish things soon.

      Like

  11. beetleypete / May 15 2017 7:04 am

    Love that Art Nouveau jeweller’s shop, Peggy. You made a real find in that museum. I confess that I had never heard of it before.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 3:06 pm

      I hadn’t heard of it either, but it is a gem. Wishing I had taken more pics of the jewellery shop. What a beauty.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. afterthelasttime / May 15 2017 7:11 am

    Very impressive! Great photos, Peggy. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. spearfruit / May 15 2017 7:30 am

    Very nice, the photos are amazing. Thanks Peggy, I appreciate you taking us on this tour. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  14. milliethom / May 15 2017 7:39 am

    Over a hundred rooms… That’s a lot of rooms, so I imagine you had a very full afternoon. Each room has such fabulous artefacts and displays, too. What a great idea to have a museum devoted to the history of a city. Lovely photos, Peggy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 3:07 pm

      You are very welcome, Millie. It’s a truly wonderful museum.

      Like

  15. magarisa / May 15 2017 10:26 am

    I’ve been to Paris a few times but have never visited Musée Carnavalet. I’ll definitely check it out next time! Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. travellerdee / May 15 2017 11:01 am

    what a delight! definitely on my list if I can get back there. Another bit of a hidden gem is the Le Musée des Arts Forains, a stunning collection of beautiful old amusement park rides and other carnival-related attractions. The tours were only in French (which we don’t speak except the odd word) but it did not matter as the material is so stunning. You even get to play and ride some of the exhibits.
    This private collection is a window to an old world of entertainment. The opera singing automaton are eerie but so splendid.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 3:09 pm

      Oh wow, thanks for this tip. I’m not sure Libby and Daniel have even seen this one. Will report back!

      Like

  17. jeanleesworld / May 15 2017 12:12 pm

    You can never share too many photographs, Peggy. I LOVE that shop, too, and how amazing the tower furniture was preserved, especially with Bonaparte’s ordering it all burned! Thanks for taking us along for the trip. 🙂 xxxxx

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 3:14 pm

      Such a bonus that the furniture survived. Apparently the two ‘benefactors’ hung on to the furniture. It’s our reward.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanleesworld / May 15 2017 8:26 pm

        It really is. I remember the tour guide in the Pabst Mansion talking about a bust of Captain Pabst. When the mansion was sold to the Catholic Church, one of the children received the bust. Since then, it stood in one of the grandchild’s family gardens, outside in the elements. Once the family created a foundation and turned the mansion into a national landmark, they started gathering up mansion pieces in family homes…forgetting the bust. Someone dug it out of the bushes a while later. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / May 16 2017 12:32 am

        Oh Jean, I shouldn’t laugh but that is funny. Imagine finding the bust in the bushes!

        Like

  18. Brian Lageose / May 15 2017 1:48 pm

    I had no idea this existed. Well, it’s now on the list for my next visit… 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  19. gerard oosterman / May 15 2017 2:00 pm

    A great trip of Paris ‘Hotel.’ et tout. The big McMansion builders in Australia better not get wind of the 100 room mansions in Paris or the housing shortage here will get even more desperate. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2017 3:15 pm

      Oh yikes, Gerard, don’t breathe of word of this place to anyone in Australia! 🙂

      Like

  20. pvcann / May 15 2017 4:49 pm

    Rich history, surprising that they didn’t destroy it all in the revolution, all that decadence 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  21. lmo58 / May 15 2017 5:37 pm

    Thank you Peggy for another amazingly informative post accompanied by beautiful photos. I’m going to look up your posts when I’m in Paris and wander in your footsteps. Thank you for all the good suggestions. My little sojourn in Paris was cut short because the plane broke down in Wellington and they couldn’t repair it. So no one left Canberra on Friday night unfortunately. However, I’m now in Singapore where the heat and humidity leave you gasping, and arrive in Paris on Tuesday morning. I hope you and John are well and enjoying Finland.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 16 2017 12:08 am

      Sorry to hear you were delayed but good to know you are on your way now. We’re enjoying Finland.

      Like

  22. poshbirdy / May 15 2017 10:51 pm

    Oh how wonderful. That jewellery shop is perfect. I’ve seen pics before but I must get there to see it for myself one day

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 16 2017 12:10 am

      It is wonderful. I hope you are able to go soon. The jewellery shop is stunning.

      Like

  23. Vicki / May 16 2017 12:24 am

    The Prince’s cradle is amazing. Far too elegant for a baby to appreciate, but I guess we have to allow for the Parent’s nightly visitation for 5 minutes every night to admire their offspring.
    (and what’s a clock or two between fellow bloggers) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 16 2017 12:29 am

      Come to think of it, I wonder which clock should go with the cradle? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  24. gigglingfattie / May 16 2017 12:25 am

    Oh wow!! Great pictures! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. voulaah / May 16 2017 4:15 pm

    great trip to Paris, thank you for sharing wonderful pictures
    Have a very nice day dear
    Kisses

    Liked by 2 people

  26. The Year I Touched My Toes / May 16 2017 10:06 pm

    I’m loving the green wallpaper, or is it fabric on the walls. Louise

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 17 2017 1:21 am

      Gosh, I’m not sure. Could be either. I’ll check if I get back there. I am very partial to green too.

      Like

  27. Lynz Real Cooking / May 17 2017 1:19 am

    Thanks for sharing! Wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. da-AL / May 17 2017 2:53 am

    thanks for sharing such a hidden treasure! another reason Paris is wonderful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / May 17 2017 1:51 pm

    I don’t think I will ever get to Paris so this virtual tour with you is wonderful, especially as your photos are so detailed. Just finished reading America’s First Daughter, a novel about Martha Jefferson. She spent time with her father in Paris as a teenager. I wonder if she might have seen some of what is in the museum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 17 2017 3:01 pm

      It’s amazing to think of what people who have gone before us might have seen. Do we stand in their footsteps? I hope so!

      Like

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