Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature
One of the things that is a curse and a blessing regarding not speaking a language well, let’s say, moi une belle fille Americane who is not all that fluent in French, who finds herself in Paris, is when I visit a place of interest and have no information in my native tongue, I can 1) miss the whole point of the place; and 2) make up all sorts of stories much more interesting than the text provided.
Such is the case of my visit to Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature at 62, Rue des Archives. For those of you who don’t know me, I am the sort who can burrow into my studio or in front of my computer or wander off into the woods for days on end, emerging only to eat, use to the bathroom or have my husband Bill drag me somewhere. I’m very glad to have Bill in my life. He rescued me from a life as a hermit, recluse, and creature of habit. He is my activity director and usually never disappoints. With him I am never bored. Bill takes his job seriously and makes it a point to seek out places and things that satisfy my sense of curiosity that slants towards the bizarre, unusual and more than dips into the grotesque. Well, our foray to Musee di la Chasse et de la Nature did not disappoint on all counts!
I loved this place. I could live in it. I could decorate my house with every single item in it. It has my number, it is my best friend, I was at home! I knew I was in for a treat the moment we stepped into the very unimposing building, in fact, we weren’t even sure we had arrived. Beyond the street door was a courtyard straight ahead with 3 enormous beehive type structures that were later determined were ovens relating to one of the exhibits. Given they had a striking resemblance to kilns, I immediately broke into a trot. To the right and left in this square little vestibule were doors with very little markings. We went right and found ourselves in a small, bare lobby. Assuring us we were in the right place we were told to go through some double doors and down a hallway, past a set of open stairs with amazing iron worked handrails and chandeliers.
At the end of the hall we found ourselves in a darkened room being watched over by a very nice man who looked official and smart in a uniform that I realized wasn’t a uniform, just smart French apparel. He handed us a card in English that didn’t seem to refer to anything. I just barged in. What lay beyond this door were rooms filled with curiosities, taxidermy, artworks both old and contemporary, and all sorts of bric-a- brac related to flora, fauna and hunting. O.M.G!
This museum is the best representation of the intersection of art and nature that I have ever seen. Some rooms were decorated with comfy sofas and furniture that upon first glance seemed to be “don’t you dare touch” armoires, but in reality were cleverly and expertly crafted please touch cabinets of curiosity with compartments and drawers each containing artifacts, moving images, paw prints and other paraphernalia pertaining to a specific animal, like a wolf in one, a moose in the other.
Another room was filled with all sorts of bizarre specimens in glass jars, yet another a room of taxidermied baboons playing cards. Presentation of specimens is elegant, grotesque, whimsical, tongue in cheek, a surprise at every turn. What I found especially attractive was that intermingled among the artifacts were contemporary artworks made to mimic the collection.
So please do visit this wonderful museum. I have made up all sorts of stories about it. There was a room at the end of the exhibit that explained who founded the collection and created the museum. I could only gather with my 3rd grade elementary school level of French comprehension that the items were collected by a man who held a high level position in whatever the French equivalent is to the US Department of Interior, and created the museum and donated the items after his tenure, for the enjoyment and education regarding what the glorious natural world has to offer us. The elegance and placement of these objects side by side with exquisite artworks, to me, reflect how precious our natural environment is and in a way, how sad it is that it is housed in a museum where it is safe from human destruction unlike what is going on outside its walls all over the world.
Ok, how close did I get to the real meaning and purpose of the place???