Monday, January 27, 2014

Highlights from the Musee Cluny in Paris

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Out of the many museums we crammed into our weeklong visit to Paris, my favorite had-to-see museum by far was the Musée Cluny over near the Sorbonne. It was THE museum that I wanted to see thanks to my years of studying medieval art history. It did not disappoint (well, except for the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry not being on display when I was there).

The museum is housed in one of the few surviving secular medieval structures left in Paris, the Hôtel de Cluny dating from the 1400s. The hôtel itself was built over the ruins of a Roman bath, and you can still feel the temperature differences walking between the Roman spaces.

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When we were there, there was a special exhibition of alabaster mourning sculptures that are usually housed in Dijon. They were commissioned in the 1400s to adorn the tomb of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. This exhibit, while removing their context, allowed you to see them at eye level and appreciate the individual expressions of the mourners.

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Other highlights? The heads of the kings from Notre Dame’s exterior were lopped off during the French Revolution. They were mistaken for French kings instead of Old Testament kings and chucked into the Seine. They were eventually dredged up and put on display at the museum.

The collection also includes pieces such as polychrome Gothic sculpture, texts, reliquaries, jewelry, and tapestries. The most famous collection piece is the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle. It consists of 6 tapestries from Flanders dating from the 15th century. You can read more about them here.

If you want to visit a quieter museum with a rich history, head for the Latin Quarter and check the Musée Cluny. You’ll gain a greater appreciation for Notre Dame and other medieval churches around Paris by giving you more material context.

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2 Responses to “Highlights from the Musee Cluny in Paris”

  1. 1

    Hogga — January 27, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    those half faces scare me
    Hogga recently posted..Why Everyone Should Go Eat a PeckerMy Profile

    • ehalvey replied: — January 29th, 2014 @ 10:06 am

      I left out the creepy Gothic smirking sculptures. They are the stuff of nightmares.

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