Sitting alongside the Louvre Museum on rue de Rivoli is the exceptional Musée des Arts décoratifs. It has a magnificent collection related to design and interiors. The museum houses furniture, interior design, altar pieces, religious paintings, objets d’arts, tapestries, wallpaper, ceramics and glassware and toys.
The galleries take visitors on a journey of design from the Middle Ages to the modern day. It is vast, but far less busy than Paris’s more famous museums. We visited on a damp Friday in February and were delighted.
One of the museum’s highlights is the period rooms. There are ten furnished rooms taken from apartments, houses and palaces. The most remarkable are three rooms from fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin’s house which was decorated by Albert-Armand Rateau in the 1920s (Room 48). The walls of the bedroom and sitting room are covered in silk dyed in the signature Lanvin blue and embroidered with a delicate white floral design. They are an amazing insight into Art Nouveau living.
Close to the Lanvin rooms is the dining room of Mr. and Mrs. Pierre Girod, decorated by Louis Sue in the early 1920s. The gilded ceiling shimmers against the darker rosewood panelling and mahogany.
There are ten period rooms scattered throughout the museum. The information desk will gladly mark them out on a floor plan for you. We decided to visit the period rooms on Levels 3 and 4, strolling from room to room and enjoying whatever we found along the way. We started at Room 4, Level 3, a bedroom from the Middle Ages. From there we took the Rivoli Galleries, which were home to an impressive exhibition on the history of wallpaper, to Room 51.
On the balcony overlooking the central hall, by Room 51, there is a box housing a gilded room from the Hotel Rouchegude, Avignon. The room was designed by Parisian architect and sculptor Thomas Laine who took the lavish interiors of Versailles and adapted them for the climate of the south of France.
On Level 4 we found the Lanvin apartments and numerous pieces from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods. The galleries are easy to navigate and laid out clearly, revealing how the styles evolved.
From Level 4 we headed to Level 9. Levels 9 to 5 take a chronological path through the history of design. Starting at Level 9, the 40s, the descending levels progress by decades: level 8 – the 50s, level 7 – the 60s and 70s, level 6 – the 80s and 90s, level 5 – the 2000s. It is a great way to get an overview of design and to see key pieces from each period.
These are some of the highlights of our visit. Click on an image to launch the gallery and click on ‘i’ for more information.
A Little Advice
The Musée des Arts décoratifs is big so a little advance research is a good idea. The online collection is extensive and worth searching if you are looking for a specific items, designers or periods. It is in French so remember to search for the French term or spelling: collections.lesartsdecoratifs.fr
The online floorplan is not the easiest to use, but it is a good overview. The plan is hidden away on the French site and not available on the English site. Here’s a link: www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/plan
Printed floorplans are available at the main reception and at the information desk. There is a chronological route through the entire collection marked on the plan. If you want to spend the day, it may be possible to take this approach. However, there is a lot to take in and I wonder how fruitful such a visit would be.
A more useful approach might be to choose subjects or periods that are of interest. In addition to the historical layout, the collection is organised by subject: advertising, jewellery, fashion and textiles, and toys.
Finally, the Museum is housed in a wing of the Louvre Palace. As a converted palace, the building is beautiful – the central atrium is stunning. However, it can be hard to navigate. In particular, note that not all lifts serve all floors. You might have to switch lifts on the fifth floor. Take a little time to work out your route and always start at the highest floor and walk down. Unless of course you want the exercise! The staff are great and very helpful.
Images are either my own or courtesy of the Musée des Arts décoratifs. All rights reserved.