The Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris is holding an exhibition on the Régence, a forgotten period in history, marking the return of the King and of political, economic and cultural life to Paris.
Louis XIV died in Versailles on 1 September 1715, leaving behind a nation in debt and a five-year-old child too young to rule, Louis XV, as his heir. On 2 September, the Duke Philippe d’Orléans (1674–1723), nephew of the late King, took on the role of Regent of France. This exhibition takes place as part of the tricentennial commemoration of the Regent’s death.
In 1715, the court, the government and all the administrations moved back to Paris, the second city in Europe, whose population increased significantly then. Thus, the city, and notably the Palais-Royal, the Regent’s residence, became the heart of all political life. A period of intense cultural effervescence ensued, giving rise to a world of philosophical, economic and artistic innovations: Voltaire, Marivaux, Montesquieu, Law and Watteau are some the most well-known figures of the time. With the invention of paper money and the bankruptcy of 1720, these years of economic and financial frenzy were interspersed with significant twists and turns. Under the Régence emerged a newfound freedom of criticism, which would become known as the spirit of the Enlightenment.
The thematic structure chosen for the exhibition highlights the innovations of the period in order to illustrate the breadth of their historical significance. Over 200 works (paintings, sculptures, graphic artworks, items of decor and pieces of furniture), coming from public and private collections, help us explore this period in history and account for the mutations of society, at a time when Paris was becoming the cultural capital of France in a permanent way.