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Throughout its history, the Carnavalet Museum has benefitted from private donations.

Anxious to see their family heirlooms live on, or keen to make the capital’s history better known, successive donors have contributed to the enrichment  of the museum.


Amongst the first donors were people who could be considered the “founding fathers” of the museum. Jules Cousin, the Carnavalet’s first curator in 1881, had donated a collection of 7,000 prints illustrating the history of Paris back in 1873. This gift was particularly important because it allowed the city to reconstitute collections which had been lost in a fire at the City Hall. This gesture was the foundation stone of what would become the Carnavalet Museum’s Print Room, a collection of more than 400,000 items.


Less than ten years later, Alfred de Liesville gave the museum a collection comprising 15,000 prints, numerous ceramics as well as medals and numismatic objects. This donation made the museum the most important iconographic centre on the French Revolution in the world, and so it remains. In return for his donation, Alfred de Liesville was made curator of his collections in the museum. He would even have succeeded Cousin, if he had not been prematurely carried away by illness in 1885, at the age of 49.


Alongside these two impressive figures, again and again we find the names of those who have worked to enrich the great French public collections for a hundred years: the Rothschilds, the David-Weills and the Wendels.


However, more numerous still are those who have filled the museum with engaging, moving mementos which are always exciting. For example, Mrs Gustave Blavot, Mrs Forceville and the Villefranche family, through donations widely spaced apart in time (1907, 1930 and 1994), have made it possible to reconstruct the life and décor of the Royal family at the Temple.

Likewise, we can thank two people for the bedroom of Proust: that of bibliophile Jacques Guerin (1973), who devoted a large portion of his life and fortune to the writer, and that of Mrs Odile Gévaudan, the daughter of Celeste Albaret, the faithful guardian of the last mementos of Proust.

In 1911, the legacy of  the Fabre de Larche family completed the Liesville Revolution collections, whilst in 1935 Mrs Moreau bequeathed an extraordinary collection from the Napoleonic era.

From 1927, the Society of Friends of the Carnavalet Museum has been a useful and effective network for procuring paintings, drawings, furniture, ornamental objects and ensembles for the collections, with the aid of the patronage of big foreign financial institutions and insurance companies.


Great or small, illustrious or anonymous, the donors’ presence is felt everywhere in the museum: on the picture rails, in the storerooms, and in the collection of sculptures, such as the archaeological items.


What visitor today could guess, as they wander through the rooms in the museum, that almost all of the furniture they see is only there because of the generosity of great donors? The greatest of these was Mrs Henriette Bouvier (1965), but there was also Mrs Flersheim-Legueu (1969), Mrs Nelly Debray (1970), Mr Pomeranz (1991) and Mr Précoul (1996). Who would think, as they leaf through the catalogue summary of paintings (nearly 3,000 items) that well more than a third of them, and some of the most significant, come from donations?


Finally, Mrs Francoise Seligmann’s gift of a collection of paintings and drawings

assembled by Francois-Gérard Seligmann is incontestably one of the most important made to

the museum. Through the number of works, their historic interest and their quality, this collection illustrates the life of Parisian society in the Belle Epoque in an exceptional way.


The Carnavalet Museum would therefore like to thank all the donors who have made its collections and who have made it possible for the public to understand and love Paris, its history and its “genius” even more.