Visitors to the Picasso Museum on the Rue de Thorigny the Marais district will recognise this as the beautiful staircase that rises through the centre of the mansion. Before it became a museum, the house was known variously as the Hôtel Aubert de Fontenay or the Hôtel de Salé and was built between 1656 and 1660 by the wealthy salt tax inspector Pierre Aubert in an attempt to impress his much younger new wife and her gentry parents.
His attempt to impress went in vain as although Madame Aubert must surely have loved her new home, she was far less enamoured with her elderly husband and took a series of lovers, becoming notorious for her bad behaviour in the meanwhile which, in the seventeenth century, must surely have taken some serious effort.
The bathroom of the Hôtel de Beauharnais at 78 Rue de Lille. This beautiful Hôtel, which looks so modest from outside was first built in 1713 and was enjoyed by many owners, such as the nephew of Colbert, Madame de Tencin and the Duc de Villeroy (guillotined in 1794) before eventually falling into the hands of Eugène de Beauharnais, the son of Empress Joséphine on 20th May 1803.
It’s clear from the exquisite modelling and beautiful paintwork within that Eugène allowed his mother to advise him about interior decoration and it is fortunate indeed that he did so as the result is a true masterpiece of Empire interior design. This bathroom is fashioned in what was called the ‘Pompeian’ style, fondly based on the ongoing excavations at Pompeii, with the marble floor depicting the legend of Europa and the Bull.
The Music Room at the Hôtel de Beauharnais. Thanks to his official duties as Viceroy of Italy, Eugène was rarely in Paris and eventually the house was to be inhabited by his sister, Hortense Bonaparte. Hortense is well known to have been an extremely talented musician and she must surely have spent many happy hours in this room.
The yellow salon at the Hôtel de Goyon-Matignon at 57 Rue de Varenne. This exquisite Hôtel is now the official residence of the Prime Minister of France but in the late eighteenth century it was the Paris home of Honoré III de Matignon, Prince de Monaco, the father in law to Marie-Thérese de Choiseul-Stainville, who must surely have known the house well.
The ceiling of the main bedroom in the Hôtel de Bourrienne at 58 Rue d’Hauteville. This lovely Hôtel was bought in March 1792 by a resourceful Créole heiress, Madame Lormier-Lagrave who lived there with her lovely daughter, Fortunée, until the latter married an immensely wealthy military supplier, Romain Hamelin in July of the same year and moved to the much more fashionable Boulevard des Italiennes.
Detail of the ceiling painting.
The Summer Room of the Hôtel de Seignelay at 80 rue de Lille, which was decorated in 1757 by Mouret.