Archive for October 20, 2011

Le Musée de la vie Romantique in Paris

October 20, 2011 27 comments

Le musée de la vie Romantique à Paris


 A sign on the noisy street, a paved alley where carriages used to ride and you reach the Musée de la vie Romantique, ie the Museum of Romantic Life. You leave the honking delivery lorries behind on the main street and enter a quiet place, and in a small leap you time-travel in the 1830s Paris. The museum is located in the Scheffer-Renan estate, in the 9th Arrondissement in Paris but was outside of Paris at the time. The house is interesting in itself as the last witness of individual houses in Paris in the 1830s. It hasn’t changed much, if you compare the picture I took and the painting by Arie Johannes Lamme (1865)

An anecdote: As you can see on the painting, people used to put a blanket on the guardrail of the stairs so that men couldn’t look under the women’s skirts when they were climbing the stairs before them.

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) was a famous painter of the Restauration (1815-1830). He painted the portraits of the royal family (Queen Marie Amélie). His house was the place of gathering for famous Romantic artists like George Sand, Chopin or Renan. I have to confess I didn’t know him before, just like I’d never heard of Louise Abbema, famous at La Belle Epoque.

La Malibran by François Bouchot 1834The first floor of the museum is dedicated to George Sand. We can see a reconstitution of her salon and a room decorated after her room in Nohan. I wandered in the rooms, looking at the paintings, her jewels and listening to Chopin. The second floor relates the Romantic life of this circle. I say “this circle” because we can see paintings by Scheffer inspired by Walter Scott or Byron but Victor Hugo is never mentioned although his Hernani had made of him a Romantic character. I was glad to see the portraits of two famous mezzo-sproanos (La Malibran and Pauline Viardot) and would have wanted to see the portrait of Rachel, the famous actress instead of a sculpture of her hand.

Pauline Viardot by Ary SchefferIt’s always strange to think that so many great artists used to be there, that Chopin was there, that the house entry hasn’t changed. The little garden is still there too with dying roses from that unusual Indian summer we’ve had this year. The place breathes peace (“Luxe, calme et volupté”?) It occurred to me that many of the persons there died rather young, of horse accidents, illness. I’ve just listened to A Slight Misunderstanding by Mérimée and I was thinking he made a convenient use of death in his tale. This visit reminded me that untimely deaths were indeed part of his world and we tend to forget it.


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