Musee d’Orsay & Muse des arts et metiers
Today we started off early to get to the Louve before attending an appointment at musee des de metires. The weather was shining brightly on us and we managed to take lots of gorgeous, typical tourist photos of both the external Louve and the Jardin des Tuileries. Then we went to queue for the Louve … except it was closed. Our initial disappointment and annoyance at not checking on that prior to leaving was soon squashed with the decision to go to Musee d’Orsay. And we were very pleased we did.
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The Musee d’Orsay is based in an old railway station that was almost demolished in 1970s following its closure in 1939. The Museum’s collection spans the period of artistic creativity of 1848-1914. Although it was extremely frustrating for me to not be allowed to use my camera, it did give me time to really reflect on the pieces. I was also able to take copious notes in my journal.
Seeing Monet, Van Gogh and Edgar Degas was an absolute joy. The reason they have the reputation as Master Artists is obvious. However, for me, learning about artist such as Alfred Sisley and James Ensor is what makes having such vast collections under one roof so important.
A few pieces that really caught my eye include:
I normally do not like pastels but the sheer enjoyment of seeing Charlotte’s passionate interest in his works has changed my mind. Sometimes, it helps to let a 9 year old explain things as they see it.
The Opera Garnier – this huge model was created when Napoleon asked architects to create plans for a grand opera house. Charles Garnier (1825-1898) won the competition.
A model of Paris that was under glass that you walked over, providing a bird’s eye view. This was spectacular for many reasons but the sheer size of this model was fascinating.
Van Gogh – La salle da danse a arles 1888 – this piece had bright and vibrant colours they caught my eye from across the room. I love pieces of art that speak to you.
James Ensor – Au Conservatoire 1902. This was a very whimsical illustration of a conductor conducting a group of singers. However, one particular female singer is clearly singing to her own notes. We know this from a picture drawn in the center of the illustration that houses a very pained man holding his ears.
Theodore Riviere – Brodeuse tunisienne. Gorgeous piece of lady creating a stain glass window. The entire piece was set on a large piece of marble floor. The gem of this piece, other than the obvious, was when Charlotte told us to look underneath the stained glass window. There, you could really see the craftsmanship and absolutely beauty of the colours reflecting down on her pale ivory skin.
The Phillpa Meyer Donation which held 74 paintings, 27 drawings, 5 sculptures and several art books. The collection was held in an exhibition on the second floor.
Lastly, the jaw dropped at the Salle des Fetes an historic monument of the old d’Orsay ballroom had the most breath-taking interior. The grandeur of the room is almost in-describable other than to say it oozes Parisian style.
Musee d’Orsay is a classic Parisan museum which won’t disappoint.
We then headed over to Musee des Arts Metiers (Twitter @ArtsetMetiers). For me, this was the gem of the holiday as it’s a museum I would not have thought to attend had it not been fore AskACurator.com as I had arrange to meet with Anne-Laure Carré, a curator at the museum.
We arrived early which gave us time to have a good look around the museum. The minute we saw the gorgeous Statute of Liberty outside the building, we knew we were going to love this place. The Museum is spread out over several very long floors and is dedicated to ‘inventors and adventures of the history of science and technology’ in France.
As we walked around the exhibitions, we were soon drawn to a few in particular:
Theatre des Automates
This room was set up like a theatre with the automates being the center of attention. This room was filled with 18th century original pieces, but yet, you were encouraged to become part of them and engage with them through the use of very clever displays. For example, Tableau anime representant un pare de chateau 1771 which used technology to assist with showing how the automaton works while saving it’s pieces from having to work repeatedly.
Statute of Liberty
Besides the model that is located in the front of the building, there is a rather large model within the Saint-Martin-des-Champs section founded in the 11th century. You are encouraged to walk through the base of the Statute where a display of how New York looked when the statute was delivered across the Atlantic is shown.
Meeting the Curator
When I meet with Anne-Laure Carré, I immediately asked her for more information on the automatons. Anne-Laure explained the theatre is used for shows throughout the summer and during school tours where 3 screens drop down from the ceiling (cleverly positioned out of the way when not in use. One particular grand automaton had a very interesting story which Anne-Laure shared with me. It was designed for Marie Antoinette and the elaborate dress was created from the Queen’s material. The museum has the original but uses a replica dress on display do to it’s fragile state. The mechanisms are played three times a month at which point the lady plays the organ piece with intricate movements to her hands, wrist and elbows.
The automaton collection was started by the inventor of automaton, Jacques de Vaucanson who, upon his death in Paris 1782 left a collection of his work as a bequest to Louis XVI.
After filming Anne-Laure by the Statute of Liberty, we sat down so I could ask her a few questions:
Why was the museum created?
In 1793 it was decided to create a place for educators and innovators. The museum was set up at this location as the patent office was held there. The importance on ensuring the French did not fall behind the great inventors at the time was prevalent. They even imported items from abroad so that the French could learn from it.
What is the most important piece in the museum?
Probably the pendulum The first experiments of the Leon Foucault’s pendulum was experimented at Paris in 1851 in his cellar. It is now displayed with honour.
What era in France history is most important/significant to the museum?
French Revolution as Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot created Carnot Cycle becoming the ‘Father of thermodynamics’.
What is the most challenging part of maintaining these collections?
Know what to display as the collection is very vast. Luckily, storage was important in the renovation of the museum. Also during this renovation, they were sympathetic to the tracks that were used for the engineering students who tested inventions. These tracks still lay on the hard wooden floor throughout the museum.
Any objects that are still missing from the collection?
Every section has obvious holes which each curator would love to fill.
Ever collaborate with another museum?
Yes, during the Bi-centennial celebrations of the Statute of Liberity in 1976, we sent the model over to New York.
At the conclusion of our interview, I was presented a copy of the Statute of Library book from the gift shop. A souvenir I will cherish from this absolute gem of a museum in Paris.