Collection de la Maison Victor-Hugo

Exhibition

Drawing, painting, photography, sculpture

Collection de la Maison Victor-Hugo

Ongoing exhibition

Reception room, place Royale
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the reception room Photographie © Slash

During this period, the reception room with its red damask walls was a meeting place for avant-garde members of the Romantic movement: Théophile Gautier, Lamartine, Dumas, Mérimée, David d’Angers, etc.

Certain works are displayed here today which would have been present at that time, including family portraits by Louis Boulanger and Auguste de Châtillon, a marble bust of the poet by David d’Angers and a painting depicting the tragedy Inez de Castro, a gift from the Duke and Duchess of Orléans to Victor Hugo.

The Chinese drawing room and the following room lead visitors into the period of exile in Guernesey.

The interior design schemes for these rooms are taken from Juliette Drouet’s second home on Guernesey, Hauteville Fairy. Designed by Victor Hugo in 1863-1864, and reassembled in 1903 for the launch of the museum, they were purchased from Louis Koch, Juliette Drouet’s nephew and sole heir, along with a number of drawings, mementos, etchings and photographs.

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The Chinese drawing room Photographie © Slash
Juliette Drouet’s Chinese drawing room in Guernesey

Victor Hugo dreamed up the design scheme for Juliette Drouet’s room after having completed his own home, Hauteville House. The drawing room is a poetic blend of Chinese decorative elements and Hugo’s own creations. Statuettes, furniture and mats in far-eastern colours rub shoulders with porcelain plates and comic pokerwork pictures created by Victor Hugo sprinkled with allusions to his beloved. The monograms VH and JD are dotted across the entire interior design scheme.

A mirror with a frame painted by Victor Hugo has been set into one of the panels. Also on display is the table which he gave Juliette as a gift and on which he wrote the first series of La Légende des Siècles in 1859 (as recorded in the author’s self-penned inscription on its surface).

Juliette Drouet’s mediaeval dining room in Guernesey
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The mediaeval dining room Photographie © Slash

This room displays the objects created by Victor Hugo from second-hand furniture and objects which he liked to put to new uses. With Juliette and often accompanied by his son Charles Hugo, he liked to set off in search of “old chests”, as he mentions several times in the diaries in which he recorded his purchases. We therefore know that he bought over sixty chests between 1857 and early 1858. Two facsimile drawings show how the artist and DIY enthusiast used to proceed by making sketches and plans, which he then handed over to Guernesey cabinetmakers to be built under the supervision of Mauger. A door would become a table, chests would be combined into a dresser and bobbins were turned into candlesticks. Various commonplace objects found at flea markets are dotted around the design scheme including earthenware dogs, Toby jugs, convex mirrors, etc. Precious relics of Juliette Drouet as well as busts of his daughter Claire and Victor Hugo himself sculpted by Vilain and Leboeuf are displayed on one piece of furniture.

The final two rooms are devoted to the period covering the writer’s return from exile (1870-1885), when he was famous and acknowledged as the father of the Republic. On display are items donated by the poet’s grandchildren to the City of Paris for the launch of the museum, popular objects and images donated by Paul Beuve and dedicated to the cult of the great man, and publications dating from this period.

Victor Hugo’s drawing room, rue de Clichy
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The drawing room Photographie © Slash

In this room are displayed mementos from Guernesey and family portraits dating from a time when Victor Hugo, who had lost three of his children and his wife, was devoting himself to “the art being a grandfather” to Georges and Jeanne. On his return from exile and following a stay at Veules-les-Roses with Paul Meurice, Victor Hugo lived in a variety of apartments. He was resident at rue de Clichy from 1874 to 1878 and then moved to a town house at 130, avenue d’Eylau (the site of the present-day 124, avenue Victor Hugo) which was partially renamed in honour of his eightieth birthday, before assuming his name fully when he died.

The furniture, sofa, armchairs, reproduction Louis XV chairs, large mirror and Murano glass chandelier come from the rue de Clichy drawing room.

A moving portrait of Juliette Drouet by the naturalist painter Jules Bastien-Lepage shortly before her death in 1883, the date on which Victor Hugo stopped writing forever, depicts “the woman banished from devotion” who accompanied the great man into his lengthy exile.

A bust of the writer by Rodin, his portrait by Léon Bonnat and the final photographs taken by Nadar personify Victor Hugo in his greatness.