Collection du Musée Carnavalet


Architecture, ceramic, painting, sculpture

Collection du Musée Carnavalet

Ongoing exhibition

The paintings, sculptures, furniture and scale models that the collections in these two erstwhile townhouses in the Marais conceal tell the story of Paris from prehistoric days to the present.

The Sign Galleries

A unique collection of signs spanning the period from 16th to the 20th centuries is housed in two galleries, offering a vivid glimpse of the atmosphere of the capital’s streets. Shopkeepers, whose customers were often illiterate, attracted the attention of passing trade by shouting their wares, but also by using pictures, hence the beauty and ingenuity of these signs on which griffons, fauna and black cats can be found side by side.

Paris in the 16th century

During this period, the capital experienced the tragedy of the Wars of Religion (the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and Catholic League riots) and the flowering of the Renaissance hailing the construction of new buildings including the Louvre, the Pont-Neuf bridge, and the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). The collections display the oldest representations of the city, as well as portraits of famous figures (Francis I, Catherine de’ Medici, Mary Queen of Scots, …). The furniture, chests, armchairs and a money-changer’s table are complemented by historical paintings depicting the lifestyle of the times.

Paris in the 17th century: the era of Madame de Sévigné

The numerous civil and religious construction sites depicted in these galleries (the Louvre, the Invalides, the former place Royale, now place des Vosges, …), first fashioned the image of Paris as a modern city. Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696) made her mark on the Hôtel Carnavalet, where she lived from 1677 to 1696. A gallery is dedicated to her memory with objects belonging to her and portraits of prominent figures of the period such as Molière and Jean de la Fontaine.

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Les salons de Madame de Sévigné Photo © Slash
Paris in the 18th century

The age of Enlightenment was characterised by a surge in interest in private architecture. Whether it be in the rocaille style (curves and organic forms) or the neoclassical style (antique columns and straight lines) it was conducive to creating a feeling of intimacy and gave rise to an expansion of the joinery trade. The prestigious collections of furniture and objets d’art showcase the skill of Parisian craftsmen. 1750 marked a revival in bold public building projects, such as the refurbishment of place Louis XV (place de la Concorde) and the construction of Sainte-Geneviève church (the Panthéon).

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Salon de l’hôtel Brûlart de Genlis Photo © Slash
The French Revolution

Objets d’art and mementos illustrate the different phases of this period in history: the Serment du Jeu de Paume (Tennis Court Oath), the storming of the Bastille, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Fête de la Fédération celebrations (14th July 1790), the imprisonment of the Royal Family, etc. The museum houses the most comprehensive and vivid collection of documentation on this crucial period in which Paris was the main theatre of events. This unique collection comprises a wide variety of nearly 500 exhibits: paintings, sculptures, engravings, furniture, objets d’art and scale models.

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Les collections révolutionnaires Photo © Slash
Paris in the 19th century: from the French Directory to the Second Republic

Despite its unstable political history (collapse of the Empire, July Revolution, …) Paris was a crucible of artistic and literary creativity. The collections offer an opportunity to learn about famous figures (Napoleon, Juliette Récamier, Franz Liszt, …) and discover views of the capital and mementos of historic events.

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Salle du Ier Empire Photo © Slash
Paris in the 19th century: from the Second Empire to the Third Republic

The Second Empire ushered in profound upheavals in city planning which shaped the capital as we now know it, doubling its size and dividing it into twenty arrondissements (districts). The war of 1870 and the French Commune brought the reign of Napoleon III to a close on the eve of the Third Republic. Paintings by Jean Béraud and Henri Pille record the ferment of activity in high society, as well as the atmosphere of the working-class districts of the capital.

Paris in the 20th century

At the dawn of the century, Paris was a seething crucible of artistic activity and this is reflected in the museum by many portraits of writers, Art Nouveau period rooms (the Fouquet jewellery shop by Alphonse Mucha), the 1925 grand interior of the Hôtel de Wendel ballroom by José-Maria Sert, and recreations of the bedrooms of three writers — Marcel Proust, Anna de Noailles and Paul Léautaud.

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Vie littéraire au XXième siècle Photo © Slash
Before Paris: from prehistoric times to the Gallo-Roman period

The majority of archaeological collections come from excavations carried out in Paris from the 19th century. A mammoth’s molar and Neolithic dugout canoes (4800-1800 BC) conjure up activity in the prehistoric era. A surgeon’s instrument case from the 3rd century BC or a painted fragment depicting a stylised male head shed light on the life of the inhabitants of Lutetia, an ordinary provincial town in the Roman Empire.

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Salle de l’orangerie, vestiges archéologiques Photo © Slash
Musée Carnavalet Museum
Map Map
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23, rue de Sévigné

75003 Paris

T. 01 44 59 58 58 — F. 01 44 59 58 11

Official website


Opening hours

Every day except Monday, 10 AM – 6 PM
Except public holidays, Easter Sunday and Whit Sunday

Admission fee

Permanent collections and themed exhibitions : free admission

Events nearby