Musée de la Vie Romantique

Quite apart from the grand fixtures of the Paris museum scene, in a small street in the IXth arrondissement, the more adventurous will find an intimate museum dedicated to the nineteenth century and specifically to the Romantic sensibility.

The sculpture of Ary Scheffer by Pierre-Jules Cavelier as sketched by the author

The neighborhood is not one that tourists are likely to visit nowadays, but in the 1820s and 1830s it was without contest the preferred place of residence for France’s cultural luminaries. There lived the greatest actor of the age, François-Joseph Talma, as well as the legendary Mademoiselle Mars. Horace Vernet, Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault and Jean-Baptiste Pigalle all lived and worked in the area.

The house that is now the Musée de la Vie Romantique belonged to Ary Scheffer, a Dutch painter who arrived in Paris in 1813, at the age of 18.

Scheffer went on to become one of the most famous painters in France, known for his historical and religions subjects, but perhaps most of all for his portraits of many leading figures of the age.

Portrait of Frédéric Chopin by Ary Scheffer

Scheffer’s home, where he lived starting in 1830 with his two brothers, one an opposition journalist and the other a painter, was a social and cultural center. Visitors included Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Georges Sand and Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt and Maria d’Agout, François Guizot, and many others.

Many years later, the home was bequeathed to the French government in order to preserve the memory of Paris’s cultural history in the Romantic era.

Today, one can take advantage of this special place to see works by Ary Scheffer, such as the portrait of Marie d’Orléans, the daughter of King Louis-Philippe, who was Scheffer’s pupil, or the remarkable picture of Doña Francisca de Bragança, princess of Joinville.

There are also paintings by other artists of the era, for example Auguste Charpentier’s famous portrait of George Sand. Among the material dedicated to the great and tumultuous French woman of letters is a series of landscapes painted by Sand herself.

The garden of the property is occupied by a café which is a wonderful place to dream about the works one has just seen or, given that access to the museum is free (other than the temporary expositions), a lovely place to simply meet for a cup of tea in a very special setting.

Musée de la vie romantique, 16 Rue Chaptal,  75009 Paris, France.

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Thomas Couture

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