Saturday, March 6, 2010

Walk 14: Eighteenth-Century Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Hands down, this was one of my favorite walks I’ve done since I’ve been in Paris. Our first stop was the Musée Jacquemart-André, which was formerly the home of … you guessed it, Jacquemart-André. Although it was still the house of a wealthy individual, it was super interesting to see the home of a non-royal. It felt far more lived in than Versailles. Thanks to Valerie and all the hours we’ve spent in the Louvre, I was familiar with the artists we were seeing, which made the whole experience more fun. The most stunning part of the house had to have been its grand double staircase – I’m just sorry I couldn’t take pictures inside.

We then got to see Parc Monceau, which appeared to be a Parisian runners paradise. Apart from a few weirdos, the French aren’t particularly into jogging, but apparently all the weirdos really like this park. I was excited to see an English-style garden right in the middle of Paris, and the “ruins” made me chuckle.

After the park we went to the Musée Nissim de Camondo, which has an incredible collection of European furniture. They were about to close, so Rebecca and I hurried through the house, trying to take in all of the furniture and artwork. I particularly liked seeing the china room, which housed hundreds of dishes in various patterns, including one set with gorgeous birds of all kinds. My favorite part was absolutely the kitchen, though. There was an incredible stove, a servants dining room, and a butler’s pantry with a special pulley system to send food up to the dining room. I was also intrigued by the story of the family who lived there. They were wealthy Jews who built the house in the early 1900s, but their daughter and her family ended up dying at Auschwitz during World War II. Once again, sorry I couldn't take any pictures.

Overall, the day made me think about my experiences volunteering at the Moss Mansion in high school. The Moss Mansion is definitely much smaller, but it dates to the same time period and had a lot of the same features. In all three houses I could see the same taste for Oriental details, for gothic revival, and for having extensive servants quarters. It turns out that the 18th-century lifestyles of the rich and famous were actually pretty similar whether they happened in Paris or in Billings, Montana.

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