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Le Musée de la vie Romantique in Paris

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment Go to 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.


  1. October 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    What buildings are around this house, Emma? I am looking forward to writing up my review of Balzac’s Omelette as I think some of the locations mentioned will interest you.


    • October 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      What do you mean by “buildings”? The monuments in that area or the exact nearby buildings ?


      • October 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm

        Yes, what buildings are next to it? Are the other buildings of that time next to it demolished? And if so what has replaced them?


        • October 22, 2011 at 5:54 pm

          It’s the last house of that kind and that time in Paris. On the right there’s a school, probably dating back to the Third Republic. I’d say 1900/1920 given the architecture and the sign “Ecole de filles” carved upon the door. I don’t remember the building on the left, flats and shops I’d say. The museum in 50 m from the street, after an alley.


          • October 23, 2011 at 3:46 am

            Ok, so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb then.


            • October 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm

              No, it’s in the middle of buildings.


  2. October 20, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    How wonderful. I especially like to see the photo next to the painting. I think I’ve been there once but I’m not sure. There are a few smaller museums that are similar.
    Those places feel almost otherworldly. A place where time stands still.


    • October 21, 2011 at 8:38 am

      I was surprised to see that the house hadn’t changed much. Ary Scheffer’s daughter married Ernest Renan and the house stayed in the family until it was donated to the city of Paris.

      “otherworlddy”, that’s the word. The feeling is even more powerful now because it’s surrounded by the city. At the time, it was almost the countryside.


  3. October 20, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Thank you so much for this, Emma – another place to add to my literary pilgrimage sites for my next visit.


    • October 21, 2011 at 8:39 am

      You’re welcome. I have another literary errand in mind, so I’ll write another post like this one.


      • October 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

        Will you give all these literary pilgrimage sites a category of their own so that I can find them all next time I’m planning a trip? It would be lovely if you did:)


        • October 21, 2011 at 11:14 am

          Yes I will. I’ve just created “Literary Errands” for this one and I intended to add that category to the other similar posts.


          • October 21, 2011 at 11:45 am

            Wow, that was quick!
            We’re going to Russia next year, but hopefully Greece after that, and well, Paris is just a hop,step and a jump from Athens, n’est-ce pas?


            • October 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

              Seen from Australia, I guess so 🙂
              I’d love to visit Russia. (and Australia too, btw)


  4. October 21, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Oh lovely Paris. I haven’t been for ages, but I recall most of all the museums in private houses that stood back from the street or were behind a courtyard wall. The sudden silence after the hustle of the city was amazing. What a gorgeous museum this one is.


    • October 21, 2011 at 10:27 am

      It’s a lovely place.
      There must be such places in Cambridge too, no? I’d love to do the same in England. I was there last Spring and my husband patiently visited Dorchester because of Thomas Hardy and helped me find Jane Austen’s house in Bath and her grave in Winchester’s cathedral. He’s much more patient than I am considering how bored I get in airspace museums and the like.


  5. October 23, 2011 at 12:09 am

    What a beautiful house! I love little museums like that, tucked away in the midst of the city. I’ve always meant to visit Samuel Johnson’s house in London – have walked past it enough times, but always been in a hurry. Still I love the feeling of walking off a busy street into a suddenly quiet alleyway and being able to breathe. The Freud Museum is great, although not so central in London.


    • October 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      In Paris, the Rodin museum is fantastic. It’s quiet and the garden is lovely.
      I guess Lisa would be interested in your ideas of such literary errands in London.


  6. October 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I think I’ve already got that one on my wishlist!


  7. October 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Beautiful photos. I’m glad you put them up. I don’t know why exactly, but I visualise Paris as rather grey. I’m happy to see that I am wrong!


    • October 25, 2011 at 8:54 am

      Thanks. No Paris isn’t grey (well except for La Défense). The buildings aren’t in grey stone or anything and are rather clean from pollution.


  8. October 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    What absolutely gorgeous pictures. And how nice to have something new to do next time I’m in Paris, which is in fact my favourite city in the world.

    Of course, it’s always easier to love a city when one doesn’t live there. Holiday romances have a tendency to the intense.


    • October 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm

      Well, you now have the “literary errand” category! So far, there’s only Le Musée de la Vie romantique and La Maison de Balzac.
      I love Paris too but I wouldn’t live there. It’s a great place to have a holiday romance. So are London and New York.
      Now that I think of it, I wonder which city is my favourite. Metz probably. And Bath felt like home.


  9. October 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Metz? I know nothing about Metz beyond the fact it exists. What’s the attraction>


    • October 26, 2011 at 5:19 pm

      It’s an old city, it dates back to the Romans (Divodorum) : the museum is built on the ancient baths.
      There are medieval streets, Renaissance plazzas, the oldest medieval church in France, a nice city center, houses on the river Moselle, a gorgeous cathedral, several nice churches, pretty military buildings. A park at walking distance from the city center. A new Pompidou museum (branch of the Parisian one)
      Here are a few photos:


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