In my penultimate week in Paris, I have visited Musée Bourdelle, Les Invalides and the tomb of Napoleon and I have taken a cruise on the Seine with Bateaux Mouches.
Musée Bourdelle was a surprise. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I didn’t know very much about Antoine Bourdelle before going. It is a wonderful example of a late 19th/early 20th century working studio that has been turned into a museum. Bourdelle himself began the process of turning his studio into a museum in the early 1920’s.
The museum has an amazing array of works including plaster casts of his most famous sculptures, including Hercules the Archer which now exists in many versions, one of which I saw at the Musée D’Orsay and one of which is at Musée Bourdelle. Versions are also in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tramwell Crow Centre in Dallas, Texas.
The museum is also home to some of Bourdelle’s personal art collection which includes such illustrious names as Carrière, Delacroix and Rodin, who was also one of his teachers.
Bourdelle is also responsible for carving the marble decorative series of friezes executed for the exterior of Auguste Perret’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
Next up was Les Invalides, which will go down as one of the highlights of my entire trip.
If you don’t know, Les Invalides was built to house and care for war veterans, which it still does today, though for a vastly smaller number than the ±6,000 it housed and cared for originally.
Today Les Invalides is home to the Musée de l’Armée and is the final resting place of some of France’s most notable war heroes, members of Napoleon’s family and of course, Napoleon himself. One of the most influential and most beloved men in French history, he remains one of the most studied political and military leaders of all time.
The Napoleonic code included such laws as freedom of religion, forbade birth related privileges and dictated that government jobs would be given to persons who were most qualified. Historian Robert Holtman, regards the Napoleonic Code as one of the few documents to have influenced the whole world.
Napoleon’s reforms included a tax code, higher education, road and sewer systems and he established the Banque de France (the central bank of France).
As Napoleon said: “My true glory is not to have won forty battles…Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. … But…what will live forever, is my Civil Code.” and indeed his code was adopted across many nations in Europe, the Americas and Africa and as such is still in use, in large part, today.
Napoelon’s remains were brought back to France and marched under l’Arc du Triomphe–which was commissioned by Napoleon after the battle at Austerlitz but which he would never see completed–on 15 December 1840 en route to their final resting place at Les Invalides at the behest of King Louis-Phillipe. The sarcophagus of Napoleon is made of red quartzite resting on a base of green granite and was completed in 1861. A beautiful and moving final resting place for one of the world’s most influential men. Truly an honour to have visited.
Finally, I was able to take a cruise along the Seine. Despite the freezing cold weather it was a most beautiful way to see Paris. I went with Bateaux Mouches whose boats depart every hour (in winter, they may be more frequent in summer and spring) and I got some amazing photographs!
This week I have another City visit with the school I am studying French at, L’Atelier Neuf and then I am cramming Le Panthéon, Musée Quay Branley, Musée Carnavalet, Le Bon Marché and a jazz club in before leaving on Sunday.
Until next time, thank you for reading!