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) http://www.chassenature.org – 62, rue des Archives – 75003 Paris.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.