Sunday, August 06, 2006

Museum Piece

No post yesterday(s) due to a convergence of various things; my mum and dad left after their brief visit, and I had financial and administrative matters to take care of. Spent a couple of hours wandering around the Musée Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris. It is situated in the beautiful 16th-century townhouse, the Hôtel Carnavalet, and is huge, taking in another old town-house behind it. Having been getting up earlier than normal this week I was awfully tired and I was straining to digest in as passive a manner as possible the abundant tableaux detailing events in the city's history. There is a disorienting nature to the museum, seeing the names and images of familiar Parisian landmarks and then trying to conceive of them in their previous incarnation. One such instance was the painting of Beaumarchais' mansion, and the Bastille, painted one year before the revolution; the mansion stood on what is now boulevard Beaumarchais, but back then these outer reaches of the city were effectively fields. A view of Paris from Belleville in 1740, which is these days only up the street from me was similarly strange, not to mention the paintings of Grenelle and Passy and the Champs Élysées, when they were still actual champs. Other highlights were Proust's reconstituted bedroom and those of a couple of other lesser writers, and the preserved Art Nouveau jewellery shop, the name of which, nor its architect I cannot remember. Most of the rest of the exhibition was just a little dense for me to absorb. A good museum though and, yesterday at least, admission was free to the permanent collection.