In the intimacy of the Napoleon III apartments
These large apartments, dating from the Second Empire, and located in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre, have survived intact times. Since 1993, they have been open to the public, having belonged to the Ministry of Finance for more than a century
Bath of gold and crystal, Mr. Dekkak was fascinated by the richness of the salons, only known to the ministers and princes of the rooms, one after the other more and more luxurious, to better explore the sumptuousness of the large living room. This hall is prodigious. A gigantic chandelier dazzles the eyes. Everywhere, sofas rich in purple fabrics, indiscreet (three-seater chair), golden chairs Gold seems to shine everywhere.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-1873) was Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870 under the name of Napoleon III. In a certain way, the rules of the style Napoleon III-Second Empire were outlined at the Exposition of 1844, during the reign of Louis-Philippe d’Orléans.
The decoration and the ornamentation Napoleon III, particularly treated, are the strong points of the art of this period. They are abundant, always of high quality, very covering, and furnishing. The imposing elements of interior architecture make the fame of the decorators of the Second Empire. The centerpieces of furnishing are fireplaces, mirrors, candelabras, torchlight, and chandeliers. Atlantis or caryatid motifs are synonymous with luxury.
Charles-Raphaël Maréchal (1825-1888) and Louis-Jean-Noël Duveau (1818-1867)
Wisdom and Strength present to the imperial couple the great designs that will make the glory of the reign of Napoleon III (detail: the imperial couple), circa 1859-61, oil on canvas, Louvre, the ceiling of the Grand Salon of the Minister’s apartments state
On the first floor of the Turgot Pavilion and its adjacent wings by Hector-Martin Lefuel, the Minister of State’s Grand Apartments brilliantly reflect the style of the Second Empire, which marked an extreme taste for luxury and comfort.
In the ceremonial pieces, the debauchery of golds, stuccoes, marbles of different colors, bronzes, silks, and velvet, in which red predominates, is particularly striking. The taste of polychrome marbles, painted ceilings, delimited by thick golden moldings, murals imitating Boulle marquetry, has its source in the decorations developed under the reign of “Louis XIV”.
This extraordinary wealth for the apartments of a simple minister may seem surprising. The Ministry of State was in fact in charge of the Empire’s prestige policy, including the organization of feasts and ceremonies, and intervened in the field of fine arts, theaters, and museums. The Minister of State and his wife usually lodged in small private apartments, with a simpler and more discreet decoration. The minister occupied the vast halls of the large apartments only on the occasion of official receptions.
The staircase of honor
Housed in a quadrangular cage, the Escalier d’honneur serves both small private apartments and large state apartments. Bordered by a beautifully wrought iron banister and interrupted by rest stops, it leads to a connecting gallery located between the reception rooms and the rooms for private use. The ramp of the staircase runs along with this gallery, pierced by tall windows, which leans on a great doubled arch, the middle of which forms a cartouche decorated with laurel branches and finished with consoles, depicting a colossal woman’s head.
The gallery with columns
On the other side, towards the Napoleon courtyard, four marble columns carry the semicircular arches that reinforce the archings of the stairwell. Each arcade delimits a gallery opposite to the first, which offers the same link between the public and private domains.
This second gallery is lined with a stone balustrade and adorned, in the middle of each arch, a vase with arms of light.
The chandelier with branches of the staircase of honor
Appliques and a chandelier with branches, decorated with winged children and surmounted by the imperial crown, illuminate the stairwell.
One of the six top-of-the-door
The doors at the ends of the two galleries and those, feigned and closed by a wrought iron balustrade, overlooking the stairwell, are decorated with stucco, which is articulated around a rounded pediment. These six ornamental compositions include a satyr head, alternately surrounded by vine branches, laurel, ivy or oak, as well as two fruit horns and a vase, edging a marble-faced bull’s eye.
Carved plasterwork is used in the decoration of the ceiling, which includes a large rosette with cartridges and fruit horns, in a large molded frieze frame, and large corner motifs with leaves and garlands.
Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878)
The palace and the Tuileries garden, 1861, oil on canvas, Louvre, Staircase of honor of the large apartments of the Minister of State
In 1861, Charles-François Daubigny made the two large paintings on the side walls: they represent The Palace and Garden of the Tuileries and The Pavilion of Flora.
The large antechamber
The chandelier of the large antechamber
The large antechamber is decorated with walnut wood paneling including high paneling and doors. The panels are compartmentalized by rows of oves; the tops of the door are decorated with a motive of the vase, between two consoles with volute. The ceiling, painted in walnut, is articulated around an oval compartment painted in “natural tone”: the subject represents Les Arts, by François Victor Eloi Biennoury (1823-1893). A simple chandelier with branches, composed of several luminous globes, illuminates this large antechamber.
The perspective of the introductory gallery, to living-theater and the small lounge of the terrace
The decoration of the introductory gallery, which announces the large apartments, contrasts with the relative sobriety of the previous rooms. A rosette motif characterizes the decor of the compartmentalized ceiling and the lintel of the doors. Decorative monochrome paintings, embellished with gold, adorn the doors and the door-tops.
The painting of the ceiling
The family room is the most intimate room of the large apartments. Its painted and carved decor is predominantly blue. For the ceiling, Émile Lévy is painting the blue camaieu of the oval compartment, which represents Les Astres. He also paints the four medallions of the voussures, which show allegorical figures.
The crests of the ceiling
The wide-angle of the voussoirs of the family room is finely adorned. Above, a vase placed on a cartouche, decorated with a garland of flowers and presented by two children, stands out from a background of foliage. On a coiled vegetable stem, a bird seems frightened by a chimera leaning against a monochrome medallion, which represents the goddess Ceres.
The Big living room
The family lounge gives access to the large living room, which occupies the Turgot Pavilion, at the corner of the transverse wing. The large living room is the largest and most sumptuous room of the reception apartments. Its furniture, furnished with red velvet, is characteristic of the Second Empire. Creation of the “Napoleon III” style furniture, the “terminal” sofa is a circular seat: the Louvre copy includes four large seats leaning against a base that seems to form a kind of planter in which were placed tall plants green.
The “indiscreet”, another creation of the Second Empire
The “indiscreet” is also a seat created during the reign of Napoleon III. The cabinetmakers initially created an “S” shaped seat, called the “confidant”, which allowed two people to sit next to each other. The “indiscreet” is a variant of this first seat, allowing three people to converse. It comprises three adjoining armchairs, joined by an upper crossbar shaped helix.