Carnavalet Museum
The Carnavalet Museum in Paris is dedicated to the history of the city. The museum occupies two neighboring mansions: the Hôtel Carnavalet and the former Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau. On the advice of Baron Haussmann, the civil servant who transformed Paris in the latter half of the 19th century, the Hôtel Carnavalet was purchased by the Municipal Council of Paris in 1866; it was opened to the public in 1880. By the latter part of the 20th century, the museum was bursting at the seams. The Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau was annexed to the Carnavalet and opened to the public in 1989.

History of the Hôtel Carnavalet
In 1548, Jacques des Ligneris, President of the Parliament of Paris, ordered the construction of the mansion that came to be known as the Hôtel Carnavalet; construction was completed about 1560. In 1578, the widow of Francois de Kernevenoy, later known as Carnavalet, purchased the building. In 1654, the mansion was bought by Claude Boislève, who commissioned the well-known architect, François Mansart, to make extensive renovations. Madame de Sévigné, famous for her letter-writing, lived in the Hôtel Carnavalet from 1677 until her death in 1696.

History of the Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau
The Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau was also built in the middle of the 16th century. It was originally known as the Hôtel d’Orgeval. It was purchased by Michel Le Peletier and passed on eventually to his grandson, Michel-Étienne. Michel-Étienne Peletier was a representative of the nobility in the Estates General (which was convoked by King Louis XVI in 1789 in response to public outcries about issues such as the failing economy). In 1793, Peletier voted for the execution of the king. He was murdered, in revenge for his vote, on January 20, 1793.

The collection
In the courtyard, a magnificent sculpture of Louis XIV, the Sun King, greets the visitor. Inside the museum, the exhibits show the transformation of the village of Lutèce, which was inhabited by the Parisii tribes, to the grand city of today with a population of 2,201,578. The Carnavalet houses about 2,600 paintings, 20,000 drawings, 300,000 engravings and 150,000 photographs, 2,000 modern sculptures and 800 pieces of furniture, thousands of ceramics, many decorations, models and reliefs, signs, thousands of coins, countless items, many of them souvenirs of famous characters, and thousands of archeological fragments. . . . The period called Modern Time, which spans from the Renaissance until today, is known essentially by the vast amount of images of the city . . . There are many views of the streets and monuments of Paris from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, but there are also many portraits of characters who played a role in the history of the capital and works showing events which took place in Paris, especially the many revolutions which stirred the capital, as well as many scenes of the daily life in all the social classes. Some highlights of the Carnavalet’s exhibits include:
  • Long narrow canoes made from a single tree trunk (pirogues), dating back long before the first written description of the village (known at the time as Lutèce) in A.D. 52 in Julius Caesar’s De bello Gallico
  • A beautiful fourth-century bottle used for perfume, wine, or honey
  • An ornate chest from the 13th century, which probably came from the Abby of Saint Denis
  • A well-preserved 14th-century sculpture of the head of the Virgin Mary, peaceful and contemplative, despite the tumultuous events that decimated the city at that time: the Hundred Years War and the Great Plague of 1348
  • Paintings from the 16th century depicting famous men and women of the time, including Francis I, Catherine de Medici, and Henry IV.
  • A painting of the Pont Neuf in about 1660 showing Parisians on horseback or on foot. A vendor is showing his wares to a crowd of interested on-lookers, and a man is walking hunched over with a bundle on his back.
  • Several paintings of Madame de Sévigné, who was considered the most beautiful woman in Paris
  • The famous uncompleted painting by Jacques-Louis David, The Tennis Court Oath (1789), portraying a pivotal event in French history when members of the National Assembly swore an emotional oath that they would not disband until they had passed a “solid and equitable Constitution.“ This event is often regarded as the beginning of the French Revolution.
  • Paintings showing the people’s revenge on the Bastille,a dungeon that had become “a symbol of the arbitrariness of royal power.”
  • Paintings or sculptures of the famous actors in the drama of the Revolution, including Mirabeau, Danton, Robespierre, and the royal family
  • A painting of death by guillotine at the Place de la Révolution, by Pierre-Antoine Demauchy: the fate that struck King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette, the Royalists, the Girondins, the Herbertists, the Dantonists, Robespierre and his followers, and many others
  • Personal effects belonging to Marie-Antoinette.
  • A paper on which Robespierre had partially written his signature when he was seized by soldiers of the National Convention.
  • Napoleon’s favorite case of toiletries
  • Paintings of early 19th-century Paris
  • A striking painting depicting one of the most important moments of the July Revolution: The Seizing of the Louvre, 29 July 1830, by Jean-Louis Bézard
  • Marvelous sculptures of Parisians of the time, some realistic portrayals, others caricatures, by Jean-Pierre Dantan
  • The extremely ornate cradle of the imperial prince, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, son of the Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie
  • Illustrated posters from the Belle Epoque
  • Realistic paintings of late 19th-century Paris.
  • A gold watch-chronometer that belonged to Émile Zola
  • A painting of the construction of the Statue of Liberty, which was shipped to the United States in pieces
  • Paintings of the Exposition Universelle, including one of the Eiffel Tower, which was specifically built for this event
  • A reconstruction, with original furniture, of the room where Marcel Proust wrote In search of lost time
  • Photographs of 20th-century Paris by Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • A stylized painting of a crowded bistro of the mid-1900s, by the naturalized Japanese artist, Leonard Foujita
  • A photograph in daguerreotype, The Forum of the Halles, taken by two American photographers in 1989 for an exhibit at the Carnavalet celebrating the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography


Museum location and hours
The Carnavalet Museum is located in the Marais neighborhood. The visitor's entrance is at 23, rue de Sévigné. The phone number is 01 44 59 58 58. Handicapped visitors should enter at 29, rue de Sévigné. There is no entrance fee for the permanent collection. Usually the entrance fee for temporary exhibitions is 4.50 euros (as of February 2009). For visitors up to and including the age of 26, the handicapped, and the unemployed, the entrance fee is 3.80 euros (as of February 2009). The museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm. It is closed on Mondays and holidays. See also
  • List of museums in Paris