Lost in the Louvre: Napoleon III Apartments
Explore perhaps the Most Opulent Apartments in the City of Lights
Paris, the city of Lights and Love is irresistible with its Iron Beauty, croissants, chocolats, patisseries and of course the inevitable Parisian charm.
It is on everyone’s bucket list to visit Paris and soak in its vivacious air, and its leisure breeze. Visiting the city of lumiere and amour in summer was one of the best experiences of my life. As it is the norm, I visited the Eiffel Tower, it is also imperative to call upon Mona Lisa and see her smile when in Paris!
The Mona Lisa finds herself the most visited lady in the world and her residence is the grand Louvre Palace. Most of us know this place as the largest museum in the world, the Louvre Museum.
It was lucky that we had a guide to take us through the important bits in this museum or we’d definitely lose our way.
I had studied about Louvre in my French lectures, one of the few subjects I really liked. I was expecting a modern structure much like the glass pyramid that is symbolic of this museum. Little was I expecting a royal palace!
When our guide showed us the old walls of the Louvre Palace, it was unexpected and a treat for a history fanatic like me.
Following this new discovery, we decided to call upon ‘the lady’ the French call La Joconde. She was happy to see us and kept on looking at me despite the number of tourists huddled around her:) It was impressive.
However I must say I enjoyed studying the Statue of Nike better. The velocity of the humid wind that is supposed to spray Nike is almost tangible. The emotions, speed and the reality of this statue only talks about the skill of the sculptor.
Shortly after, our guide left us with a map to explore the Louvre. And as inevitable as it was, we got lost.
The map of such a gigantic Palace is almost of no use to navigate across the different galleries. Giving up the tireless search, we simply decided to turn at any corridor as we pleased, after all we might chance upon an interesting gallery. Lo and behold, we did! Napoleon III Apartments at that!
Thinking back, I’m glad we got lost. If not, I’d have regretted never visiting the Napoleon III Apartments.
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You might like to read about my ‘Midnight Rendezvous with the Eiffel Tower‘
Words are not enough to describe this beautiful specimen of Second Empire style of decor. I have never seen a more opulent apartment before.
Generally an apartment in a metropolitan city means a matchbox with little to no artistic interior decor. This was far from it.
The walls, the ceilings, he chairs were gilded gold. The upholstery on the chairs, tapestries was a rich velvety red and a huge chandelier with diamond teardrop like crystals dominated the room. It took me a minute to take it all in. Overwhelmed I certainly was.
This majestic room was the State Drawing Room with its chairs and indescret looking something straight from a Ball scene in a Historical Drama.
An Indescret is a three seater couch done in a twisted manner which was in vogue in the 19th century France typical to the Second Empire Style.
This State Drawing Room has an equally grand fresco done by Charles-Raphaël Maréchal.
If I thought this room to be opulent, the State Dining Room was classic. A flattering chandelier hangs from the ceiling right above an equally grand dining table.
This State Dining Room has a black stained wooden panelling and étagère which needless to say looks beautiful especially when seen as a subtle contrast with the flamboyant red State Drawing Room.
After a set of a few more luxurious rooms sits the grand bed chamber. The typical Royal bed is also gilded in gold probably making a person feel like King Midas himself! It stands tall and grand however not as opulent as the first two rooms of the apartment.
Stepping out of this gallery it is necessary to blink a couple of times just to remove the blinding glitz of gold. It is a classic piece of french art and interior design. However a question kept pestering me: what is such an extravagant french architectural specimen doing in the middle of a museum even if it were a former royal Palace?
FYI the Louvre was turned into a museum in 1793!
To answer this burning question, it is necessary to know who Napoleon III was.
Napoleon was the nephew of Napoleon I, the first head of state of France. As a child, Napoleon III spent most of his life living in exile. So when Louis Philippe I was abdicated in 1848, the young Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte known to us as Napoleon III saw an opportunity to return to his homeland.
In the same year, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was made the President of France and his reign was called the Second Empire. He assumed the name of Napoleon III.
A few years later in 1852, he made himself the King of the French (not King of France since he wasn’t a direct descendent of the unwanted beheaded Royals)
During his reign, Napoleon III is chiefly remembered as the architect who built Paris. The architecture of the typical 5 storey French buildings that line its beautiful avenues are all the resultant masterpieces of Napoleon’s plan to built Paris as a modern city.
It wasn’t just the revamped new exteriors but also the new interiors. This new style was called Second Empire style or sometimes even Napoleon III style.
The gilded gold and opulent luxurious decor was symbolic to such an interior decor. To have a second empire decor, it was customary to combine glitz, luxury and comfort.
Perhaps the only place to view this style of architecture are these set of rooms in the Louvre Museum’s Richelieu wing.
Building the Napoleon III Apartment Gallery
One of the pieces of Napoleon III’s revamp Paris project was his idea to join the Louvre Palace with the Tuileries Palace. Both these Palaces stood on the right bank of the River Seine.
This new wing that would connect the two Palaces was to be called Aile Denon running across the rue de Rivoli and joining the Louvre at its Richelieu wing.
Louvre Museum, Paris 🇫🇷 I’ve been posting a lot about Paris lately but what can I do, this city is just so beautiful! This picture is from the Napoleon II’s apartments in the Louvre Museum. Just look at this mantelpiece clad in gold!! Unfortunately there’s no time for a detailed explanation today, I’m busy putting the finishing touches on this week’s article. I’ll be publishing it in a couple of hours to stay tuned for the link or head over to the website (link in bio) and take the quiz!!
Unfortunately, the Palais des Tuileries burned down in 1871. Drawings of this Palace only suggest that it was a treasure lost to the fierce wimps of fire.
Napoleon III’s plans were left unfinished.
Somewhere along its long past, the Ministry of Finance found its way to the Richelieu wing blocking it from the eager eyes of the tourists. In a Grand Louvre project which resulted in the famous pyramids of the Louvre, this wing was opened up for curious eyes.
It is simply fascinating to know about these shifts in history which lead me to the Napoleon III apartments. If I were to pick three of the Must See places in the Louvre Museum I’d definitely pick these Apartments, Mona Lisa and the Winged Nike.
What about you? Have you been to the Louvre Museum? If so what did you find the most fascinating? Comment below!
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You might like to read the ‘The Astonishing Architectural Details of the Eiffel Tower’