January 17, 2012

Exploring Paris' history

How do a Swedish American, a Jewish American, a Japanese American and a Swiss American go about learning Paris' rich history? Well, we took ourselves off to the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais district.

We initially got sidetracked by a little cafe while waiting for the museum to open. Un petit déjeuner and a good girlie conversation later, we set off to explore the Museum of the History of Paris.

Can you believe that until the end of the 19th century, the City of Paris did not have a single museum? From 1797, the majority of national collections were displayed to the public in the Museum, the current Louvre, with the remainder assigned to the Museums of Fine Arts of large Provincial cities.

The Museum of the History of Paris is located at the heart of Le Marais, one of the few districts whose architectural heritage was spared by the major transformation projects of Haussmann. Even today it still offers plenty of evidence of its extremely rich past: town houses (sometimes with their decors), gardens, religious buildings, etc. For this reason, Le Marais has been a protected area since 1965.

The Hôtel Carnavalet is one of the rare examples of Renaissance architecture in Paris, alongside the Louvre’s square courtyard. Built from 1548 to 1560 for Jacques des Ligneris, president of the Parliament of Paris, it is one of the oldest hotels in Le Marais. In 1578 the hotel received its current name, stemming from a distortion of the name of its following owner, Madame de Kernevenoy of Brittany.

Behind the somewhat mysterious name of Musée Carnavalet lies hidden one of the capital’s most genuinely Parisian museums. The oldest of the municipal museums tells the story of Paris from a bygone era (a prehistoric dugout canoe dating from 4600 BC) to the present day, in all its immense variety.

Courtyard Statue

Shopkeepers, whose customers were often illiterate, attracted the attention of passing trade by shouting their wares, but also by using pictures and scale models.

Jean Babtise Deshayes
1729 - 1765
"Minerva presenting peace to the City of Paris"
And this was just a sketch that he presented to the City of Paris

There is even a pink room!

The chair where Victor Hugo had his inspiration as well as his last breath.

Galerie d'exposition 1929

Scale model of the Bastille

Declaration of citizens' rights

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