Musée Carnavalet – Museum of the History of Paris
The Musée Carnavalet is a museum dedicated to the history of the city of Paris located in the 4th arrondissement of the French capital.
The museum, one of the oldest in Paris, opened on February 25, 1880, in the Hôtel Carnavalet, a historic building located in the very central Marais district. Le Carnavalet, as it is popularly called, has been subsequently expanded in 1989 with the acquisition of the adjacent Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargea.
Above: the west wing of the Hôtel Carnavalet/ Hôtel de Ligneris and the so-called “Facade of the cloth merchant workshops” (Façade du bureau des marchands drapiers), view from the entrance courtyard; photo © Cyrille Weiner.
Built in the mid-16th century by French nobleman Jacques des Ligneris, the Hôtel Carnavalet (also known as Hôtel des Ligneris) is one of the few Renaissance buildings still existing in Paris. The mansion was expanded by famous architect François Mansart in 1655.
The Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargea is a baroque-style palace built in the late-17th century after a design by architect Pierre Bulle.
The 3,900-square-meter/42,000-square-foot Carnavalet Museum was renovated recently by Chatillon Architectes together with Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta and French exhibition design office Agence NC. The renovation comprised a complete restoration of the historical architectural complex, new exhibition settings, new state-of-the-art technical systems, a completely revised circulation, three additional galleries, and various new visitor facilities including a cafe-restaurant with a view of the museum’s garden.
Hôtel Carnavalet/ Hôtel de Ligneris, view from the entrance courtyard looking north; photo © Cyrille Weiner.
Collection and permanent exhibition
The collection of the Musée Carnavalet comprises over 625,000 pieces variously related to the history of the city of Paris, including archaeological objects, paintings, sculptures, architectural models, drawings, prints, photographs, books, coins and medals, arms, objects of decorative arts, garments, furniture, and memorabilia. The collection spans a period of over 11,000 years, from the Mesolithic to the present day.
Most notable pieces on view in the permanent exhibition of the museum include notable paintings by Jacques-Louis David, Jean Béraud, and Paul Signac, a 5-meter-long prehistoric pirogue, ancient Roman sculptures, many spectacular pieces of furniture and architectural decorations, objects that belonged to various members of the French Royal Family and to Napoleon I, a famous bronze statue of King Louis 15th by sculptor Antoine Coysevox, an entire early-20th century ballroom, and personal items of famous Parisians such as Émile Zola and Marcel Proust.
The program of activities of the Musée Carnavalet also features special exhibitions, guided tours, educational workshops, talks, and special events.
The renovated reception area of the Musée Carnavalet; photo © Antoine Mercusot.
The monumental staircase of the museum; © Cyrille Weiner.
At the beginning of the permanent exhibition, this room is decorated with antique signs from various historic Parisian shops; © Cyrille Weiner.
Located in the museum basement, the prehistoric gallery presents the history of Paris during the Mesolithic and Neolithic ages; photo © Antoine Mercusot.
A 6,500-year-old wooden pirogue on view in the prehistoric gallery; © Pierre Antoine.
A new, iconic spiral stairway connects the four levels of the museum; photo © Antoine Mercusot.
A room dedicated to the history of Paris’ Hôtel de Ville palace with the painting “Illumination de l’Hôtel de Ville pour la fête du roi, le 1er mai 1847” by Auguste Roux; photo © Cyrille Weiner.
The paintings “Portrait de Juliette Récamier” by François Gérard (1802) and “Portrait of Napoleon I in ” by Robert Lefèvre (1809); photo © Pierre Antoine.
The ballroom of the Hôtel Sourdeval-Demachy, ca. 1925; © Pierre Antoine.
The bedroom of French writer Marcel Proust (1871-1922); © Pierre Antoine.
All images courtesy of Musée Carnavalet / Paris Musées, Chatillon Architectes, and Snøhetta.
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