Every travel writer wants to tell you she has a secret Paris destination that none of  the other 70 million tourists a year have  heard of.   Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you!  If you think  it’s time to find one memorable little museum where you don’t have to stand in line in the drizzle of winter or the sizzle of summer, follow me to the heart of the Marais where you will be miraculously alone in the MUSEUM OF HUNTING AND NATURE (MUSEE DE LA CHASSE ET DE LA NATURE)  – 62, rue des Archives – 75003 Paris.

Liberté, égalité and fraternité are all very well for French citizens,  but critters aren’t covered. Bunnies, ducks, foxes, bears, up to 600,000 deer  and over 500,000 wild boar a year (that’s a lot of sausage) have the misfortune to be part of the national passion for hunting. Whether hunters are decked out in  camouflage from Afghanistan or formal riding habits, they are still allowed to gather a pack of  baying hounds and gallop around the country chasing a stag if they feel like it, unlike those poor sissies in England.

You’ll find the collection at the  Museum of Hunting and Nature either breathtakingly politically incorrect, or the most delirious endorsement for the right to bear arms and celebrate man’s dominion over animals. This museum has the allure of being both serious about an ancient French tradition and lightheartedly kitschy at the same time.

Who let the deer in?

The museum was founded by François and Jacqueline Sommer, passionate hunters who donated their antique firearms, trophy animals, hunting themed paintings, tapestries, furniture and ceramics to the Republic in 1967. They were fortunate to have it all housed in a dazzling building designed by Mansart in 1651 for Louis XIV’s  secretary and bought by Andre Malraux in 1962 for the city of Paris.

Double marriage portrait of François and Jacqueline Sommer.

If the caves at Chauvet and Lascaux are any indication, the French have always been thrilled by the “kill or be killed” culture of the hunt. They were the  world’s most eminent Paleolithic hunters and Paleolithic artists, so the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is just an extension  of the enduring French enthusiasm for  animal art.

This room features an owl feather ceiling. Poor Hedwig.

WARNING: if you see a bear, never run or play dead. Make yourself look larger by lifting up your arms and shouting.
Ditto for polar bear encounters.

This collection is so large that part of it is installed at the Chåteau de Chambord in the Loire Valley which was built by that great hunter, King François I.
Stag andirons, naturally.

The museum itself is designed as a cabinet of curiosities with an infinity of drawers and shelves inviting you to snoop. You can sort through brass and silver hunting buttons, knives, pistols, drawings, and bits of hunting fashions.

Every year a different artist is invited to “take possession of the museum” and follow his/her own animal instincts. This year it was François Pétrovitch whose whimsy lifted the occasionally morbid atmosphere of the collection.

“Forget Me Not”, 2010, produced by Sevres for François Pétrovitch.
“Le Plongeur” 2008, produced by Limoges for François Pétrovitch.
Every detail in the museum is evocative of an enchanted forest where, with a flick of her wand, a witch may turn a wild boar into a fabulous cassoulet.
One of many sculptural bronze light fixtures.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

After the thrill of the kill we opted for a nice, neutral vegetarian meal around the corner at CAFE BREIZH (mentioned in blogpost “Under Paris Skies” ).  A marvelous alcoholic Normandie cider will help you forget about staging a P.E.T.A. intervention at the museum.

Apple tart tatin in the guise of a Britanny crepe.
Bon appétit!

3 thoughts on “HUNTING FOR PARIS – 2012

  1. It’s so great that you are back at it!! I love these excursions that your images and words allow when my schedule will not. Always an expected “take”…

  2. Florence, a thoroughly enjoyable read, makes a carnivore reach for the spinach.
    Kay, I didn’t know you knew Florence! But who doesn’t? You helped me color my home ages ago and it still looks marvelous! Tiniest of worlds, Ren from Bedhead

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