by Janine Lea-Oesi,
It doesn’t have the grandeur of the Louvre, but this charming little museum in the 9th arrondissement of Paris is definitely worth a visit. This charming museum, with its adjoining tea-room and garden, can be found in the 9th arrondissement at 16 (formerly 7) rue Chaptal.
The building housing the museum was once a private residence. Built by property speculators in 1811, when the population of Paris was rapidly expanding, the painter Ary Scheffer, of Dutch origin, and his family were the first to move into it. Scheffer was an exponent of the Romantic school of painting. Not long after moving in, he added two studios to the house, which are today used to house temporary exhibitions.
The next thirty years saw not only Scheffer’s rise to fame, principally as a portrait painter, but also witnessed the success of his studio as a meeting-place for the most renowned figures in the arts of his day. Delacroix, George Sand, Chopin, Liszt, Rossini and Dickens – these luminaries and others all once trod the well-worn path that today welcomes the curious visitor.
Scheffer’s studio was not only a mecca for the well-known. It also housed the work of artists rejected by the prestigious Paris Salon and was a ‘safe-house’ for part of the art collection belonging to the exiled royal family.
After the artist’s death in 1858 the house had a somewhat mixed history. In 1870-71 it was used as a hospital and it wasn’t until 1899, under the direction of Scheffer’s great niece, Noémi Renan-Psichari, that it once again became a meeting-place for well-known figures in the world of the arts, a situation that endured well into the 1950s, when the property was sold to the French state.
Musée de la Vie Romantique Today
To visit the museum today is truly to go back in time. The two-story house is set well back from the street, at the end of a pretty treed path, and has a distinct country feel to it. As entrance to the permanent collections is free, there is an informality to a visit here that one rarely finds in larger museums. Upon reaching the house, it is simply a matter of walking up the front steps, opening the door and entering.
The first floor houses a permanent collection devoted to George Sand with many of her personal items and paintings on display. As one browses the exhibits it is not difficult to imagine the world of those who once lived here. The second floor houses paintings by the Scheffer brothers.
After your visit be sure to treat yourself to tea in the tea-house adjoining the museum!