On a recent trip to Paris with my better half we naturally saw all of the fabulous sights that one would expect; the Eiffel tower (did you know Gustave Eiffel was not only a civil engineer but also an aerodynamicist?), the Louvre and my favourite large space on this planet; Le Musée D’Orsay. But, despite my deep and abiding love of the Art Nouveau that the D’Orsay contains, the highlight of this trip was exploring a much less well known (and entirely separate) museum: Les Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a museum of the decorative arts and design, located in the Palais du Louvre’s western wing, known as the Pavillon de Marsan, at 107 rue de Rivoli. It is filled with a dizzying array of 150,000 objects, the collections are testaments to the French art of living, the savoir-faire of French craftsmen and industrialists, the research and creativity of its artists. Pity our North American cousins who have to cross the Atlantic to savour this treat and enjoy some of the finest furniture available to view on the planet.
The museum boldly claims that there is not a single technique, material or type of object that cannot be found in the Arts Décoratifs inventories: tiepin, escritoire, doll’s house, scenic wallpaper, stained glass, wood, enamel, plastic, shark’s skin and amaranth…the list is extensive. Many criteria governed the selection of some 6,000 objects for permanent display (including thousands of pieces of furniture), demonstrating their use, economy, craftsmanship, prowess and symbolism.
If you have visited Paris before and want a new experience or, if you are new to the city and don’t mind standing slack jawed at the construction and finishing techniques on display – this is a great place to take a look at the development of French and particularly Parisian furniture where the trade was divided among myriad craft guilds.
Of course the whole thing can only be enhanced with a copy of Don William’s magnificent translation of the first volume of A.J. Roubo’s ‘L’Art du Menuisier’ to hand back at the hotel for reference…
– Paul Mayon