Autumn 2023: a Season of 18th Century Exhibits

The autumn is often the season when most of Paris’s best exhibits are held. Besides the exhibit on Van Gogh at Auvers taking place at the Musée d’Orsay (which we cover in this article), many of the other most noteworthy exhibits taking place this autumn and winter in Paris revolve around the 18th century.

The Garden at Bourgival, 1884, Berthe Morisot, Musée Marmottan Monet

Berthe Morisot & The Art of the 18th Century, Musée Marmottan Monet

This exhibit explores the influence artists of the 18th century, including Watteau, Boucher and Fragonard, had on leading Impressionist artist Berthe Morisot. This wonderful lesser visited museum is well worth visiting for its impressive collections, including the largest collection of Monets in the world, the perfect complement to a tour of the exhibit. On from 18 October 2023 to 3 March 2024, learn more at this link.

L’Embarquement pour Cythere, 1717, Antoine Watteau, Musée du Louvre

The Regency in Paris, Musée Carnavalet

The Museum of the History of Paris will be focusing on the Regency, a lesser-known period of French history between Louis XIV’s death in 1715 to the beginning of Louis XV’s rule in 1723, when France was governed by the Sun King’s nephew, the Duke Philippe d’Orléans. On from 20 October 2023 to 25 February 2024, more information here.

Scene of Comedie dell’Arte Italienne, Claude Gillot, Musée du Louvre

Claude Gillot, Musée du Louvre

This exhibit traces the work of renowned draughtsman and printmaker in the last years of the Grand Siècle. Known for the inventiveness and originality, his works heralded the freedom of expression and customs of the Régence period (1715–1723). On from 9 November 2023 to 26 February 2024, further details here.

Portrait of Madame la Présidente de Rieux, 1742, Georges De La Tour, Musée Cognacq-Jay

Pastels, Between Line and Color, Musée Cognacq Jay

This exhibit explores pastels during the Age of Enlightenment, and features works by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, the “prince of pastelists” as well as Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, François Boucher and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. On from 12 October 2023 to 11 February 2024, read more on this exhibit at this link.

Enjoy an in-depth experience of these exhibits by arranging a guided tour led by an art historian and expert of the 18th century. Contact us for further details and booking.

Vincent Van Gogh and Flowers 

Marguerite Gachet in the Garden, 1890, Vincent Van Gogh, Musée d’Orsay

This autumn the Musée d’Orsay will host a much anticipated exhibit, Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, exploring the Dutch artist’s final months that were spent in this village located north of Paris. Vincent stayed for a mere 70 days, ending his life on July 29, 1890, yet this was a period of intense creativity, in which he produced 74 paintings (at least one a day!) and over 50 drawings, many of which will be on display at exhibition. The exhibit provides an excellent opportunity to explore one of Van Gogh’s favorite and best-known subject matters–flowers.

Throughout his career Vincent depicted flowers, attracted to the colors and textures of the petals. In his letters, Vincent wrote that he painted flowers because he could not afford to paint after models: “I have lacked money for paying models, else I had entirely given myself to figure painting, but I have made a series of color studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue cornflowers and myosotys. White and rose roses, yellow chrysanthemums.” While surely attracted to the color of specific flowers, by making flowers his subject, Vincent endowed his paintings with a force and dynamism that have become icons of modern art. 

Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh

Sunflowers, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh, National Gallery

Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers are among his most famous. Vincent painted five different versions of sunflowers in a vase from 1888 to 1889. Sunflowers are heliotropic; they follow the sun, and have been symbols of enlightenment in western art for millennia. In Greek mythology, Apollo turned the spurned nymph Clytie into a sunflower.  The fact that the flowers follow the sun, symbolized devotion. Whether or not Van Gogh knew these stories, he certainly appreciated the vibrant yellow flowers he would have observed during his time in southern France. To depict them, he concentrated on using three shades of yellow, demonstrating the nuances of a single color. Certainly, Van Gogh’s attention to brushstrokes and the form of the petals make these paintings masterworks and give the flowers an emotional charge that we appreciate today. 

Irises, 1889, Vincent Van Gogh, J. Paul Getty Museum

Van Gogh was also attracted to the irises. While in the asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, he painted the iris flowers planted in the gardens of the asylum. Irises, which grow from bulbs or rhizomes, were especially appreciated by Vincent for their color and form. In Greek mythology, Iris was a messenger who was personified as a rainbow, perhaps why the center of our eyes are called the iris today. In Renaissance art, the iris was considered the flower of the Virgin, Van Gogh may have been aware of the the spiritual and chromatic association of irises,  but in his painting, he transformed the iris into a moving vibrant form, clearly relishing in the color contrast between blues and greens. 

Dr Gachet, 1887, Vincent Van Gogh, Musée d'Orsay

Le Docteur Gachet, 1890, Vincent Van Gogh, Musée d’Orsay

In spring 1889, Vincent’s brother Theo, concerned about Vincent’s mental health following his release from the asylum in Saint Remy, solicited Dr. Paul Gachet, a physician and artist, to care for Vincent in his hometown of Auvers-sur-Oise. Gachet agreed, and Vincent arrived on May 20, 1890. 

Displayed in the exhibit is one of Van Gogh’s portraits of Dr. Gachet from the Orsay’s collection, a work that reveals Vincent’s compassion for his friend. Within the portrait, on the table in front of Gachet’s hand,is a foxglove, or digitalis. This is another representation of his lifelong interest in flowers, and may have been a homage to Gachet’s medical proficiency as it was a well known herbal remedy in the 1890s.

Blossoming Chestnut Branches, 1890, Vincent Van Gogh, Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection

While in Auvers, Van Gogh was attracted to the flowers in the landscape, and his blossoming chestnut flowers were probably painted after chestnut trees during his stay. It seems Vincent painted his canvases quickly, in order to capture the blooms before they withered. Here the swirling emphatic blue strokes in the sky are similar to his rendering of night skies and the format recalls his interest in Japanese prints. 

Certainly Vincent appreciated flowers as much as landscape: referring to the last large paintings of his period in Auvers he wrote: “They depict vast, distended wheat fields under angry skies, and I deliberately tried to express sadness and extreme loneliness in them.” But these pictures also had a positive side: “I am almost certain that these canvases illustrate what I cannot express in words, that is, how healthy and reassuring I find the countryside.” We can imagine that flowers provided both solace and beauty and perhaps optimism as he explored the variety of colors, shapes, and petals. 

Van Gogh in Auvers at the Musée d’Orsay, the Final Months appears from 3 October 2023 until 4 February 2024. We are conducting guided tours of the Van Gogh in Auvers exhibit which can also be combined with an excursion to visit the village of Auvers. Learn more about this, and our other Impressionist Garden tours, at this link.

How to Enjoy Paris in the Summer of 2023

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Image by Сергей from Pixabay

View from the Arc de Triomphe, by Сергей from Pixabay

Two years after Covid, Paris has maintained its spot as the number one tourist destination worldwide! The city continues to hold this acclaimed status for many reasons: its stellar number of museums, its thriving urban culture, boutique shopping, easy access to historic chateaux and gardens, and its storied (and constantly renewing) restaurant scene. The popularity of summer travel to the French capital means that when your dreams of Paris are confronted with the current reality, the throngs of tourists may dampen your enthusiasm. However, there are ways in which you can mitigate the crowds – and disappointment. These helpful hints will help you enjoy Paris, after you’ve been on one of our tours, which will allow you to discover the city on your own and like a local. 

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Surprising Stories: Hot Chocolate fit for Kings and Queens

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De Smaak, Jacob Gole, 1695-1724, Rijks Museum

With the cool airs descending on Paris as winter approaches, there’s no tastier way to warm up than with a thick cup of chocolat chaud. The history of hot chocolate in France began over four hundred years and involves two foreign queens. Digest the delectable history behind French hot chocolate as well as discover the best places for hot chocolate in Paris in the latest instalment of our Surprising Stories series.

Chocolate was first brought to Europe by Spanish Conquistadors and it was appreciated as a delicacy at the Spanish court. The Spanish royalty, who valued its fortifying and aphrodisiac qualities, jealously guarded the new drink as a state secret. When Philippe III of Spain’s daughter Anne of Austria, left for France to marry Louis XIII in 1615, she brought her favorite beverage with her as a wedding gift. The bride met her husband in Bayonne, a port city in the southwest of France, which is still internationally recognized as the capital of gourmet French chocolates.

Chocolate Pot by John Fawdrey, Victoria & Albert Museum

From Bayonne to Paris, chocolatiers would roast the cocoa beans in ovens then, after cooling the beans in canvas bags, they would pound them in to a paste on a heated stone. Before mechanical processes which separated bean from butter, it took up to an hour of pounding before the paste could be rolled into a sausage-like dough. The chocolate roll was then cut into slices and placed into a chocolatiere, a coffee pot with a wooden handle. By adding warm liquid, or heating from below, the brew was whipped with a wooden handle into a more or less homogenous brewage, a frothy hot chocolate.

An eighteenth-century recipe book gives us some idea of how hot chocolate made for kings:

“Place an equal number of bars of chocolate and cups of water in a cafetiere (coffee pot) and boil on a low heat for a short while; when you are ready to serve, add one egg yolk for four cups and stir over a low heat without allowing to boil. It is better if prepared a day in advance. Those who drink it every day should leave a small amount as flavouring for those who prepare it the next day. Instead of an egg yolk one can add a beaten egg white after having removed the top layer of froth. Mix in a small amount of chocolate from the cafetiere, then add to the cafetiere and finish as with the egg yolk.

Source: Dinners of the Court or the Art of working with all sorts of foods for serving the best tables following the four seasons, by Menon, 1755.

Hot Chocolate at the Court of Versailles

While this recipe sounds like a power drink, French confectioners added additional ingredients like coffee, vanilla, and cloves to subdue what must have been a rather bitter taste. When Marie-Antoinette married Louis XVI in 1770, she brought her personal chocolate-maker with her to the French court. The queen was one of the first to add sugar to her chocolate, and her official chocolatier created new recipes combining chocolate with orange blossom or sweet almonds.  Ultimately the queen preferred a dollop of cream—perhaps recalling a Viennese recipe—to help sweeten her drinks.

debauve et gallais marie-antoinette

Debauve et Gallais, Pistoles de Marie-Antoinette

The Queen’s love of chocolate was well known in Paris and Versailles. An enterprising pharmacologist, Sulpice Debauve, established an apothecary in 1778 in the fashionable Saint-Germain neighborhood. Here he experimented with chocolate paste that was like an early bonbon or candy. He mixed a headache remedy with coco butter, which he then offered to the Queen. He baptized these medallions ‘Pistoles de Marie-Antoinette’ and he was awarded the title of the first official chocolatier for Louis XVI. The pistoles are still sold today at the historic boutique rue des Saint-Pères.

Photo: Angelina Rivoli

Although hot chocolate has changed since its arrival in the French capital, there are a number of excellent places to sample modern takes on this historic beverage. Here are some of our favorite places:

  • Angelina: Paris’s most famous venue for hot chocolate, the original tea salon on rue de Rivoli has expanded with different outposts around the city and at Versailles where you won’t have to wait as long in line. Take out and make at home kits available. See all branches here.
  • Un Dimanche à Paris: This tea salon and pastry shop boasts divine hot chocolate and a unique location in the historic lane, down from Paris’s oldest existing café and with the remains of a watch tower from the Medieval city walls. Take out also available. 4-8 Cours du Commerce Saint-André, 75006 Paris.
  • Carette: This chic salon de thé overlooking Place des Vosges has decadent hot chocolate best served with a side of their fresh whipped cream and refined pastries. 5 Place des Vosges, 75003 Paris. They also have a location in Place du Trocadero, near the Eiffel Tower, and a takeaway shop in Place du Tertre in Montmartre.
  • Jean Paul Hevin: This renowned Paris chocolatier sells make at home hot chocolate mix as well as take away usually in winter at his various shops, including one in the north Marais on rue de Bretagne. See all locations here.

Please contact us to book or for further information.

 

Seasons Greetings & Special Paris Tours for the Holidays

Rue Montorgueil at Christmas

Rue Montorgueil at Christmas

The holiday season is fast approaching and it’s one of the best times in Paris. The festive spirit abounds, particularly on the city’s market streets, bustling with Parisians preparing for their holiday feasts. If you will be traveling to Paris during the holidays, we have some excellent new culinary, perfume and shopping tours, ideal for this time of year. There are also some superb exhibits up through January, however, we recommend booking ahead to not miss out! Not returning to Paris yet and looking for the perfect holiday gift ? Offer them the gift of Paris through our holiday gift certificates. 

Rue Mouffetard in Paris, Gerd Eichmann / CC

Special Culinary Tours

We have launched a new food tour around Les Halles, the former location of Paris’s central fresh food market. Although the market buildings have since been demolished, the area is still one of the city’s food hubs. Our tour includes the history of the district and an exclusive experience at a ‘bean to bar’ chocolate store. For groups of less than ten, we also offer a private tasting with famed French chocolatier, Jacques Genin, combined with a culinary walk of the open air market at the Rue Montorgueil.

Marie-Antoinette Cake by Molly Wilkinson

Marie-Antoinette piece montée by Molly Wilkinson

Culinary Tour + Special Marie-Antoinette Cake

In partnership with Molly Wilkinson, cordon-bleu trained pastry chef, a visit to Versailles can finish with a tasting of the cakes that Marie-Antoinette would have loved, like the above piece montée. Ask us for further details when booking!

L’Officine Universelle Buly, historic parfumerie visited on our perfume tours

Perfume Tour and Workshop

Our 4-hour perfume tour focus on how flower gardens have supplied the perfume industry for centuries. We visit two historic perfumeries in the Marais and then clients attend a perfume workshop where they can make their own perfumes.

Holiday Shopping Tour

For the Christmas season, we have developed a special tour dedicated shopping in Paris. Our tour begins at the Palais Royal visiting boutiques in this chic neighborhood.  We continue to the Passages, the covered streets of the nineteenth century. We then stop for tea in recently re opened Samaritaine, an art nouveau temple of luxury on the Seine.

Botticelli Exhibit at Musée Jacquemart-André

Noteworthy Exhibition Tours: Winter 2021-2022

Botticelli, Artist and Designer – Musée Jacquemart André: This exhibition showcases 40 works by the celebrated Renaissance artist and is combined with a tour of the Jacquemart André house museum’s impressive collection of works by Italian and French masters. Exhibit on through January 24, 2022.

Edmund de Waal interventions at the Musée Nissim de Camondo

Letters to Camondo – Musée Nissim de Camondo: Author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal has curated special interventions at the Musée Nissim de Camondo linked to his new book, Letters to Camondo, a collection of imaginary letters from de Waal to Moise de Camondo. Camondo, a wealthy Jewish banker designed his house museum in memory of his son, Nissim, but de Waal’s exhibition evokes another commemoration, one to the entire family who perished at Nazi war camps during World War II. Our tour of the exhibit and museum is followed by a visit to the Parc Monceau, one of Paris’s oldest parks which borders the museum. Exhibit on through May 15, 2022.

Picturesque Voyages Christmas Gift Certificate

Holiday Gift Certificates

Do you have a friend or family member planning a trip to Paris and are looking for the perfect holiday gift? Consider gifting them a certificate for one of our tours. These can be purchased for a specific tour or for a credit towards the tour of your giftee’s choice, valid for any bookings made until December 31, 2022. Contact us here for further details.

We are wishing you and your loved ones a safe and joyful time over the holidays!

Best wishes,

Susan Taylor-Leduc & the Picturesque Voyages Team

New Exclusive Versailles Tours & Experiences

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Apartments of the King Versailles

Private Apartments of the King Louis XV, Versailles

As an art historian, a specialist on Marie-Antoinette and the gardens at Versailles, I am particularly pleased to lead tours that provide exclusive access to the Private Apartments of King Louis XV or the Private Apartments of the Queen Marie-Antoinette. Learn more about these special Versailles access experiences below.

Private Apartments of the King, Versailles

Private Apartments of the King Louis XV, Versailles

Rococo Splendour: The Private Apartments of King Louis XV

Designed by Louis XIV this suite of ten rooms reveals how Louis XV repurposed and luxuriously decorated rooms for intimate dinners, musical performances and gambling! We will visit the ‘cabinet secret’ where the king met privately with his network of spies. Access to this series of rooms is ideal as an add-on to our main palace tour. 

This VIP experience requires advance booking of 6-8 weeks and may incur additional reservation fees.

Private Apartments of the Queen Versailles

Private Apartments of the Queen Marie-Antoinette Versailles

Private Apartments of the Queen Marie-Antoinette

On either side of Marie-Antoinette’s sumptuous bed in the ceremonial apartments, hidden doors lead to her private apartments. The queen retreated from public life to her library, small salon, and boudoir, where she received courtiers in more intimate settings. This special access tour can be included on a customized half-day tour or a full-day tour of Versailles.

This VIP experience must be booked 3 months prior to your visit and incurs  additional reservation fees.

Versailles

Temple of Love, Petit Trianon, Versailles

The Domaine de la Reine Marie-Antoinette

A special tour entirely dedicated to the queen’s gardens. We begins at the Petit Trianon, where we see how the queen redecorated her villa, developed her English garden, and created her own village and private hamlet. We come to understand how the queen’s gardens became the most enchanting and misunderstood sites in French history.

Please note, there is limited access to the interiors of the Hameau and reservations must be booked at least 3 months in advance.  Please let us know us if you would like to include a visit to the interiors as part of your tour so we can arrange the reservation which will incur additional costs.

Molly Wilkinson Marie-Antoinette pastries

Marie-Antoinette pastries

Let’s Eat Cake!

For those clients passionate about pastry, we also offer a special event  tastings pastries that the queen Marie-Antoinette would have found delicious. In partnership with cordon bleu pastry chef Molly Wilkinson, we discuss gourmet history followed by a tasting of  the queen’s favorite cakes specially prepared for you.

We look forward to sharing these unique Versailles experiences with you. Please contact us to book or for further information.

 

Nature into Art: Same Sky/Même Ciel

Same Sky/ Même Ciel Installation

The third article in our series dedicated to reappraisals of the picturesque—how nature becomes art—investigates how artists adapted their creative thinking during the Covid-19 pandemic.  In early 2020, Leslie Greene and Duwenavue Sante Johnson scheduled an exhibition of their collaborative works at The Jones Institute in San Francisco. The confinement significantly delayed their exhibition but offered unexpected opportunities.

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Where to Buy Art in Paris

Photo: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Owing to its world-class museums and artistic heritage, Paris is one of the world’s top destinations for art lovers. It is also a prime destination for art buying, an endeavor which might seem daunting, particularly with the perceived language barrier. Fortunately, there are options for all budgets and English skills are now more widespread, which makes it much easier to buy art in Paris than one would assume. To facilitate your task even more, we’ve brought together this helpful collection of best auction houses and art galleries in Paris to suit various art buying parameters.

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Nature into Art: Wax Tulip Mania

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Mona Oren, Wax Tulip Mania

The second of our series dedicated to reappraisals of picturesque—how nature becomes art—reviews an exhibition at the Avant Galerie Vossen entitled From the Tulip to the Crypto Marguerite. The show suggests that art is a constantly fluctuating value, linking today’s bitcoin speculation to the tulip mania that consumed seventeenth-century Europe. While the tulip is the subject of many of the works in the show, including several painted works, Mona Oren’s Wax Tulip Mania project particularly addresses how natural materials morph into digital formats.   Read more

Surprising Stories: Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais: Resistance and Sacrifice

 

The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin at the Rodin Museum. Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr

Today, perhaps more than any other time in recent history, we are aware of the fragility of the human body. The ongoing Covid pandemic and the worldwide protests against police brutality, makes it clear that how we view our bodies is changing how we view the world. This week’s Surprising Story looks at Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of the Burghers of Calais from 1895, one of his most inspiring monumental works of public sculpture that epitomizes how artists cast the human form to inspire social change.

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