Hidden away from the touristic districts of Paris, the Museum of Romantic Life is a restful place that evokes the years between 1830 and 1850. I visited this place in Spring and really liked this quiet and peaceful estate in the 9th arrondissement. Here’s what I discovered…
About the Scheffer-Renan mansion
Rue Chaptal is a residential street in the 9th arrondissement at the foot of the Hill of Montmartre. The street runs close to a district called Nouvelle-Athènes (New Athens). This speculative property development from 1830 included residential buildings and studio houses for the many artists who settled in the neighbourhood. The Nouvelle-Athènes quickly became the principal intellectual district of Paris. Many of these studio houses disappeared or were transformed to other use. One of them marvellously survived: the Scheffer-Renan mansion. The one that now houses the collections of the museum of Romantic Life.
Find number 16 rue Chaptal and walk to the end of a long paved lane.
Beyond the small entrance gate lies a cobbled courtyard.
In front of you stands the studio house of Ari Scheffer. The hôtel particulier was built in 1830. The pavillon is a good example of Restoration-style in Paris (1815-1830) during when the House of Bourbon came to power in the form of a constitutional monarchy.
Ary Scheffer, a well-known painter of his day
The romantic painter Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) bought the newly built house and lived there until 1858. The Dutch-born painter and his daughter Cornelia held Friday soirées for the greatest artists of his day. Guests included names such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Alphonse de Lamartine, Eugène Delacroix, Franz Liszt, Gioacchino Rossini, without forgetting composer Frédéric Chopin and his mistress George Sand.
Ary Scheffer was a well-known painter during his lifetime and was close to king Louis-Philippe.
The descendants of Scheffer opened a museum in 1982 under the name of “Renan-Scheffer museum“. It reopened in 1897 as the museum of Romantic Life and was devoted to the Romantic period of the years 1830 to 1850.
Today the museum is run by the City of Paris’ institution of “Paris Musées” along with 13 other museums. It is one of Paris’ three literary museums, along with the Balzac House (16th arrt) and the Victor Hugo House (Place des Vosges).
The collections of the Museum of Romantic Life
The two floors of the sumptuous Scheffer-Renan house are accessible to the public. They reproduce the atmosphere of the mid-19th century.
The first floor displays mementoes of George Sand donated by her heirs (household possessions, jewellery, and manuscripts), a plaster cast of Chopin’s left hand and Sand’s right fore-arm. A room was reproduced based on her home in Nohant with her furniture, rugs, tapestries and wood-panelling. It gives to the place a very warm and cosy atmosphere. You can even see her rings, necklaces, ear-rings, pins… and a sample of her hair!
On the second floor are displayed the paintings by Ary Scheffer, works by François Bouchot, François Debon, Charles Durupt, Louis Hersent… and sculptures by Barre, Bartholdi, Clésinger…
What I like about this museum is that it displays its small collections inside an old and historic house surrounded by a leafy garden – miles away from big large museums such as the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay. From April to October, the little garden has a tea house where you can sit over a cup of a tea or coffee. A very romantic and restful place indeed!
Check out this video of the Museum of Romantic Life. If you don’t understand French, you can still discover the museums’ collections:
More photos taken during my visit to the museum:
How to get to the Museum of Romantic Life
- The Museum of Romantic Life is situated at number 16 rue Chaptal, just off the street (9th arrondissement). Click here to locate the museum on google map.
- Closest métro stations: Blanche (line 2), Pigalle (lines 2 and 12) or Saint-Georges (line 12).
- Admission to the museum’s permanent exhibition is free.
- For more info about the Museum of Romantic Life (opening times, collections…), check out the official website [in English].
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