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The Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau

In 1989, the Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau was annexed to the museum. Its rooms are dedicated to the French Revolution (2nd floor), the prehistoric and Gallo-Roman period, the first half of the 19th century (Ground floor), the second half of the 19th century and the 20th century (1st floor). Since 2000, the adjacent orangery has housed the archaeological collections, which stretch from the Neolithic era to the end of Antiquity.

Built in 1688, The Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, located at 29 Sévigné street, was designed by Pierre Bullet (1639-1716), architect of the King and the City, for Michel Le Peletier de Souzy (1640-1725). The latter, State Councillor and Intendant des finances, was the younger brother of Claude Le Peletier de Morfontaine, the Provost of Markets (1668-1676) who became the Financial Controller upon the death of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1683).

A classic building between the courtyard and garden, the hotel is covered by a restrained, three-floor façade. The only decorations found in the courtyard are the building staples on the keystones of the arches over the ground floor doors and windows. A curious disparity exists between the main façade, with four very wide bays, and the side façades, with closer and more regular bays, which suggests that Bullet probably reused elements from the previous structure while building the hotel. The monumental façade facing the garden is much wider, with its ten bays, than the one facing the courtyard. A central pavilion with two bays, with very slight projections, is embellished by a pediment decorated with a figure of Time as “Saturn holding his scythe in one hand, an hourglass at his feet, resting against a broken column upon which the hours are shown, serving as a dial”. Perpendicular to the façade is the orangery, a single-story building lit by thirteen windows and topped with a Mansard attic. A pediment over the central door-window echoes the figure of Time on the main façade with a figure of Truth. These two reliefs are attributed to Laurent Magnier (1615-1700).

Of the hotel’s original interior décor, only the central staircase and a chamber of mirrors remain. The staircase’s cast iron banister is the first known example in France of the large-scale use of this technique, entirely new at the end of the 17th century. The rare chamber of mirrors attests to the wealth and splendour of the hotel’s builder.

A "martyr" of the Revolution

Without a doubt, the hotel’s most famous occupant is Michel Le Peletier de Souzy’s great-grandson, Louis-Michel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau (1760-1793), who inherited the property in 1779. A representative of the nobility in the Estates General, he joined the Third Estate in July 1789. He thus became one of the most ardent defenders of the people’s cause. As Deputy of Yonne under the Convention, he voted for the execution of Louis XVI on 20 January 1793. That same evening, while dining in a restaurant at the Royal Palace, he was stabbed by one of the king’s former bodyguards, Philippe de Pâris; he was brought home and died on the morning of 21 January, a few hours before the king was executed. The Nation then declared him a “Martyr for Freedom” and he was given a grandiose funeral, organised by the painter Louis David, before his body was transferred to the Pantheon. Louis-Michel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, Jean-Paul Marat (assassinated on 13 July 1793) and Marie-Joseph Chalier (executed the following 17 July) would become the three “Martyrs of the Revolution”, the focus of an official cult during the Reign of terror.

The daughter of the appointed regicide, Suzanne, married her cousin Léon Le Peletier de Morfontaine. Living elsewhere, she sold the hotel in 1811. The hotel then passed through many hands and later housed several educational institutions. In 1863, it was occupied by the Compagnie générale de la poste aux paquets et des transports internationaux. In 1895, the City of Paris acquired the hotel for its historical library which, since 1872, has existed alongside the municipal historical collections at the Carnavalet hotel. Relocation took place between 1896 and 1898.

The hotel is annexed by the Carnavalet museum

In 1968, the library was relocated once more to the Lamoignon hotel, on Pavée street, due to a necessary expansion of the museum. However, the project didn’t get off the ground until 1984. After five years of work, the Hôtel Le Peletier finally opened its doors to the public in 1989. The two buildings are connected by a gallery, which leads to the first floor of the Victor Hugo Lycée (the gallery was planned during the construction of the latter, but never used until then). The collections from the revolutionary period, the 19th and 20th centuries are on display at the Hôtel Le Peletier. Keeping with a tradition that dates back to the origins of the Carnavalet museum, the hotel features decorations from different Parisian buildings: Georges Fouquet’s jewellery boutique, formerly on Royale street, built in 1901 and designed by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939); a unique drawing room, circa 1899, from the Café de Paris, a famous restaurant located on Opéra avenue, designed in collaboration between Henri Sauvage (1873-1932) and Louis Majorelle (1859-1926); the ballroom of the Wendel hotel (New York avenue), with lavish murals painted in 1925 by José-Maria Sert (1876-1945).

The Hôtel Le Peletier also houses the museum’s numismatic and graphic arts rooms.

The French Revolution

Objets d’art and mementos illustrate the different phases of this period in history: the Serment du Jeu de Paume (Tennis Court Oath), the storming of the Bastille, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Fête de la Fédération celebrations (14th July 1790), the imprisonment of the Royal Family, etc. The museum houses the most comprehensive and vivid collection of documentation on this crucial
period in which Paris was the main theatre of events. This unique collection comprises a wide variety of nearly 500 exhibits: paintings, sculptures, engravings, furniture, objets d’art and scale models.


Paris in the 19th century: from the French Directory to the Second Republic

Despite its unstable political history (collapse of the Empire, July Revolution, ...) Paris was a crucible of artistic and literary creativity. The collections offer an opportunity to learn about famous figures (Napoleon, Juliette Récamier, Franz Liszt, ...) and discover views of the capital and mementos of historic events.


Paris in the 19th century: from the Second Empire to the Third Republic

The Second Empire ushered in profound upheavals in city planning which shaped the capital as we now know it, doubling its size and dividing it into twenty arrondissements (districts). The war of 1870 and the French Commune brought the reign of Napoleon III to a close on the eve of the Third
Republic. Paintings by Jean Béraud and Henri Pille record the ferment of activity in high society, as well as the atmosphere of the working-class districts of the capital.


Paris in the 20th century

At the dawn of the century, Paris was a seething crucible of artistic activity and this is reflected in the museum by many portraits of writers, Art Nouveau period rooms (the Fouquet jewellery shop by Alphonse Mucha), the 1925 grand interior of the Hôtel de Wendel ballroom by José-Maria Sert, and recreations of the bedrooms of three writers - Marcel Proust, Anna de Noailles and Paul Léautaud.


Before Paris: from prehistoric times to the Gallo-Roman period (THE ORANGERY)

Since the 1920s, the City of Paris’ lapidary collections have been on display in the orangery.  The orangery was completely redone in 2000. It houses selections from the rich municipal archaeological collection, which recently incorporated several new additions from the Bercy site (excavated in 1991-1992), including several pirogues over 6500 years old.

The orangery opens to the Georges Cain square, built in 1923, which has the same dimensions of the old hotel garden. In the centre, a flowerbed replaces the pond mentioned in older descriptions. In 1993, a sculpture by Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), L’Ile de France (1925), replaced La Flore by Philippe Magnier (1647-1715), installed in the square in 1926 and now at the Louvre.

Architectural elements from several vanished Parisian buildings, including the former Hôtel de Ville (Paris City Hall) and Tuileries Palace appear on the wall dividing the Victor Hugo Lycée and the orangery.

The majority of archaeological collections come from excavations carried out in Paris from the 19th century. A mammoth’s molar and Neolithic dugout canoes (4800-1800 BC) conjure up activity in the prehistoric era. A surgeon’s instrument case from the 3rd century BC or a painted fragment depicting a stylised male head shed light on the life of the inhabitants of Lutetia, an ordinary provincial town in the Roman Empire.

Crédit photographique: Salle des droits de l'homme © DAC - Antoine Dumont
Escalier d'honneur de l'hotel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau © DAC - Antoine Dumont