Paris is known for its famous, large museums such as the Louvre and Orsay but there are many small, charming museums to be visited. Often the smaller collections are displayed in old mansions and historic buildings which means you can get a view of life in times gone by at the same time.
One of my favourites is the Musée de la Vie Romantique – The Museum of Romantic Life, which stands at the foot of Montmartre in an area once called The New Athens. Many artists lived here and there was, indeed, some Roman/Grecian architecture at one time.
The Museum is housed in a home formerly owned by Dutch born artist, Ary Scheffer who moved there in 1830. Scheffer was quite a fashionable portrait painter and each Friday would entertain prestigious guests in his working studio which you can still visit. The guests included many celebrities of the day including George Sand, Chopin and Delacroix to name just a few. It is quite a grand hôtel but, there is a feeling of homeliness, things like wood piles for the fires and shutters freshly painted in colours trendy in the artist’s day.
The museum exhibits many artefacts that once belonged to George Sand as well as several busts, drawings and portraits of her. There are also some excellent water colours that she painted though she is much better known for her writing. She is also famous for her many love affairs, the most well-known being an eight year liaison with Chopin. She often wore men’s clothing and smoked a big cigar and was a real character. Her son in law (she had two children), Auguste Clesinger besides making a bust of her, also made a plaster cast of her arm and hand which you can see but my favourite is the plaster cast of Chopin’s hand, looking delicate and artistic.
You can visit two floors of the home and see many paintings by Scheffer. In the two studios are usually art exhibits. Especially charming is the little garden where you can have tea in the summer away from the traffic and crowds pushing to see the nearby Moulin Rouge – a little Oasis in the heart of Paris, and one of the best secret terrace café gardens in Paris.
Entry to the museum is free for the permanent exhibitions.
Musee de la Vie Romantique, Hôtel Scheffer-Renan, 16 rue Chaptal – 75009 Paris. Metro : Saint-Georges, Pigalle, Blanche.
Website for musee-de-la-vie-romantique
Linda Mathieu, a native Texan, lives in France with her French husband. She was a Paris Tour Guide and is the author of Secrets of a Paris Tour Guide, available at www.amazon.com.