Monday, February 23, 2009
Nature and the Chase
As part of our never ending tour of parisian museums we dropped by the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Hunting and Nature Museum) in the Marais. This was my second time around, and I loved it as much as the first. I'm going to go out on a limb by stating that there is no other museum in Paris that is as intelligently and imaginatively executed as this one. The emphasis is less on the objects themselves, but more on the synthesis between concept, history, science and culture. Another important element is the integration of the architecture. The museography, designed by Frédérique Paoletti & Catherine Rouland, makes no delineation between architecture and object, nor amongst various artistic genres or medium. This is how I understand European museums to be at their best and most modern, when there is a unique mix of diverse elements and time periods.
The visit takes you through various themed rooms, such as the Wild Boar Room, and little niches called cabinets, my favourite being the Cabinet Rubens (the ceiling is a trippy composition of owl heads and feathers). The collection is housed in a mid-17th century hôtel particulier, L'Hôtel de Guénégaud, which is the property of the City of Paris. The museum itself is operated by the Sommer Foundation, created by François et Jacqueline Sommer who were not only hunting enthusiasts but also passionate about the stewardship of the natural environment. Indeed there is a varied mix of emphasizing the value of wildlife, and, well, instruments with which to kill them. But, interestingly enough it works.
Each room contains a cabinet containing information regarding the namesake animal. They are full of technical, and cultural facts and curiosities. This cabinet on the wolf houses prints embossed into bronze, water colours, replica glass eyes, a looking glass onto the natural environment of the wolf, poems with a wolf theme, and examples of wolf droppings.
Some architectural details. Nothing off the shelf here.
Animal information card, just like in the Dewey decimal card system (yeah, you know what I'm talking about).
A little niche art diorama with crane sticking beak into cutout of fox. Do you see all the cast positives of the fox? There were no less than 7 micro spots designed to create that effect...
There is a great deal of fawning over this museum whenever I mention it to fellow museum enthusiasts. But for some odd reason it is never packed to the gills like the others. This, for someone who lives in Paris, is a gift. No pushing around, plenty of seating, lot's of meditative silence. It is a place to find some peace with a particular, and beautiful, perspective of nature.
My favourite moment, zzzzz.....