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The Great Museums Of Paris with Russell Kelley

Symposium, Talk

@ Alliance française Chicago + Alliance française Miami Metro


Online, United States

January 11 - February 22, 2024 - Every Thursday - 12:00 p.m. Chicago (CST) /1:00 p.m. Miami (EST) / 19h Paris

Following the success of Grands Châteaux of the Loire and Ile-de-France The Making of the French Garden and The Great Churches of Parisseries of online talks, Russell Kelley returns from January 11 through February 22, 2024 to offer an enthralling new Zoom series about an essential pillar of France’s cultural heritage: the extraordinary museums that were established in Paris starting with the Revolution and continuing through the end of the 19th century.

January 11 : Introduction to The Making of the Great Museums of Paris

With Russell Kelley

Following the success of Grands Châteaux of the Loire and Ile-de-France, The Making of the French Gardens and The Great Churches of Paris series of online talks, our curator extraordinaire, Russell sets the stage in his introductory lecture for the creation of the very first museums in France and elsewhere, inspired first by the Renaissance and then by the Enlightenment. What follows are six fascinating presentations by the directors and curators of the great museums established in and around Paris between 1793 and 1898, exploring how each institution came to be, and how each has evolved until today… 

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January 18 : The Making of the Louvre Museum

With Françoise Mardrus, Director of Museum Studies and Research Support Department at the Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum was the first public museum created in France and is the largest art museum in the world. Françoise Mardrus, Director of Museum Studies and Research Support Department at the Louvre and co-editor of the definitive three-volume Histoire du Louvre (2016), will tell the story how the Central Museum of the Arts was created in 1793, one year to the day after Louis XVI vacated the premises; how its collection expanded with artwork plundered by Napoléon during his many conquests (known as “art de la conquête”), when the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon; how its collection shrank after Waterloo when the looted artworks were returned to their rightful owners, but was rebuilt and expanded again and again over the next 150 years until the Grand Louvre project of François Mitterrand, which culminated with the inauguration of I.M. Pei’s iconic Pyramide du Louvre in 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the Revolution, moved the museum to another level. The Louvre is now the largest museum in the world, covering nearly 10,000 years of history.

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January 25: The Making of the Museum of the Château de Versailles

With Russel Kelley

Russel Kelley will explain how the Museum of the Château de Versailles is in fact two museums in one – the first dedicated to the history of France and the second to the royal residence of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI during the roughly 100 years leading up to the Revolution. The Museum of French History, with its impressive Gallery of Great Battles, was inaugurated by Louis-Philippe in 1837 and developed over the course of the 19th century. The “house museum” of the residence of the last three kings of the Ancien Régime, with its spectacular Hall of Mirrors and sumptuous apartments, is the product of the vision of a series of dedicated curators, supported by the French state and by generous private donors – many of them American – starting in 1892 and still continuing today.

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February 1: The Making of the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages

With Séverine Lepape, Director of the Cluny Museum

Séverine Lepape will explain how in 1843 the French state purchased the 15th century residence of the abbots of Cluny together with Alexandre Du Sommerard’s collection of medieval and Renaissance objets d’art; how the museum’s collection grew to include objets d’art from Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, including the acquisition in 1882 of the famous series of six tapestries entitled “The Lady and the Unicorn” (“La Dame à la licorne”), dating from around 1500; how the museum transferred its Renaissance collection to the newly formed Musée National de la Renaissance located outside Paris in the Château d’Écouen in 1977, and officially became the National Museum of the Middle Ages in 1992; and how the museum underwent extensive renovation and expansion works that lasted seven years, reopening in 2022 with a new visitor route that is arranged chronologically, with themed insertions.

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February 8: The Making of the Carnavalet Museum of the History of Paris

With Ulysse Jardat, Curator, Head of the Decor, Furniture and Decorative Arts Department

Ulysse Jardat, Curator and Head of the Decor, Furniture and Decorative Arts Department at the Carnavalet Museum of the History of Paris, will explain how Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine under Napoléon III between 1853 and 1870, proposed the creation of a museum dedicated to the history of the city that he had done so much to transform; how in 1866 the City of Paris acquired the 16th century Hôtel Carnavalet, one of the first and finest hôtels particuliers to be built in the Marais, for that purpose; how the museum was inaugurated in 1880; how its eclectic collection of paintings, sculptures, engravings, drawings, stained glass windows, models, manuscripts, photographs, furniture, signs and posters grew, and its buildings were enlarged, over the years, ultimately resulting in the annexation of an adjacent hôtel particulier in 1989; how the museum was completely renovated between 2017 and 2021 and now has 40 decorated rooms and galleries organized as a visit “pathway” (parcours) through eight different periods in the city’s history, from Gallo-Roman times until today.

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February 15: The Making of the Condé Museum at Chateau de Chantilly

With Mathieu Deldicque, Director of the Condé Museum in the Château de Chantilly

Mathieu Deldicque will introduce us to the greatest collector of his age, the Duc d’Aumale, fifth son of King Louis-Philippe and heir to the great fortune of his godfather the Prince de Condé, which the Duc d’Aumale spent collecting precious books, paintings, drawings and decorative art objects, and then building a château in which to house his vast collection. Upon his death in 1897, the Duc d’Aumale bequeathed to the Institut de France both the château and his collections, which include the second largest collection of antique paintings in France after the Louvre, and the 15th century illuminated manuscript “Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry” (sometimes called “the Mona Lisa of manuscripts”). The Musée Condé opened in 1898, and has remained virtually unchanged ever since.

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February 22: The Making of the Museum of Decorative Arts

With Sophie Motsch, Assistant Curator 17th-18th Centuries Western Decorative Arts at the Museum of Decorative Arts

Sophie Motsch will explain how the museum came to be in 1882 when a group of collectors with an interest in promoting the applied arts and developing links between industry and culture, design and production, banded together to form an organization initially known as the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs; and how In 1904 the renamed Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) moved into the Marsan Pavilion and Wing at the western end of the long wing of the Louvre alongside the Rue de Rivoli, where it remains today. With approximately one million objects in its collections, MAD is one of the largest museums of decorative arts in continental Europe. Its vast and diverse collections include, among other things, furniture, interior design, altarpieces, religious paintings, drawings, objets d’art, tapestries, wallpaper, ceramics and glassware, and toys, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

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About Russel Kelley

Russell Kelley is the curator and moderator of the past three winter’s Zoom lecture series on the Grands Châteaux of the Loire and Ile-de-France , The Making of the French Gardens and The Great Churches of Paris. He has lived in Paris for 30 years and is the author of The Making of Paris: The Story of How Paris Evolved from a Fishing Village into the World’s Most Beautiful City (Globe Pequot Press, 2021), and has lived in Paris for 30 years.

In partnership with

Alliance française de Chicago

The Alliance Française de Chicago is over 120 years old and is part of an international network of over 1,100 Alliances and affiliated cultural centers worldwide. It is the second oldest Alliance Française in the US and second largest after the Alliance Française in New York City. Classes are offered for all ages and levels of French, leading to certifications in French for professional purposes or simply for experiencing another language and its various cultures. It also hosts an impressive array of events, bringing notable lecturers to Chicago: authors, filmmakers and directors, winemakers, chefs, designers, historians, actors and performing artists.

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Alliance française Miami Metro

The Alliance française of Miami’s mission is to be Miami’s center of French language and French speaking cultures—to promote exchange, understanding, and friendship between Americans and French speaking people from Europe, Canada, Cajun country, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East—a world of over 220 million French speakers.

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