Paris Study Week

Paris1

The Paris study week takes place towards the end of the Winter Term and provides students with an invaluable opportunity to consolidate what they have learned over the two taught terms of the MA in Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors. Students spend one week in Paris exploring the riches of the collections of decorative arts in the Paris museums such as the Louvre, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Musée Jacquemart-André and the Musée Carnavalet. They also have the opportunity to visit some of the hidden delights of Paris. Some of the greatest French interiors of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are to be found in banks and embassies and other government buildings not normally accessible to the public. Among those visited in the past have been the former Hôtel de Toulouse (now Banque de France) and the Hôtel de Breteuil (now the German embassy), the Hôtel de Lauzun and the Hôtel Lambert. The Paris study week provides a rare opportunity to visit some of these important private houses. The study week also includes visits to châteaux near Paris, including a tour of some of the lesser-known private rooms at Versailles, and a guided visit to the Grand and Petit Trianons.

Paris Study week 2013

Students in the Hameau de la Reine at Versailles

Students in the Hameau de la Reine at Versailles

“The best experience of the trip was definitely our tour of the château of Versailles. I was especially delighted that I didn’t have to leave over an hour before our scheduled show time. Our tour was led by a senior palace curator and the famous (at least to us) John Whitehead, who wrote the best book on the architecture and furnishings of the château. I think we were all a little star struck in the nerdiest of ways when we met him, with his English watermelon colored chinos and green bow tie.  He was amazing. It’s absolutely verboten to teach while taking people through Versailles. Unless of course, you’re John Whitehead, and then you get the head curator to accompany you for the whole day, opening doors into rooms that NO ONE gets to see. It was a little mad trying to take notes and pictures, listen to his voice rather than the annoying tourists, and avoid being pick-pocketed by the zillions of tourists who were packed into the formal state rooms with us. But, not to fear – we left those mere mortals behind as we tucked in behind the rope of Louis XV’s formal state room and walked into his private closet to begin the private tour. This would be the point at which the curator pulled out the most amazingly long old, old keys which unlocked door after door of private Royal Family apartments.  Now, I’m not going to lie, it is possible to buy a special ticket to see some of the private apartments. But, those are basically the ones on the main floor. Not shabby, but that was what we saw before lunch. The whipped cream of the whole experience is when you climb up rickety back staircases to the 2nd and 3rd floors to hang out in Madame du Barry’s apartments or to see the small private rooms which were decorated for Marie Antoinette’s use when she finally had the Dauphin.”

Ann Theriot, student on the MA Decorative Arts programme 2012-13

Paris Study week 2011

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Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

“It is an almost universal truth that when the words ‘Paris’ and ‘springtime’ are linked, eyes mist with the remembrance of happy times.  It certainly is the case with the  ‘Class of 2011’…even if springtime happens in February in the unremitting rain and the agenda is study and not romance!

“The Decorative Arts & Historic Interiors study trip to Paris took place from February 20–24; it was, in the familiar vernacular of one of our dear Bavarian class members, ‘Amazing, simply amazing!’.  Starting out gently (Sunday is, after all, a day of rest), we visited the delightfully eclectic Musée Carnavalet, the Museum of the History of Paris, grabbed a bite of lunch at a favourite haunt of one of the tutors in the Marais, then hared off to marvel at the tear-provoking (for me, at least) beauty of a particular room of the Hôtel de Soubise and to examine the exterior of the Hôtel de Sully.  A few of us found to our cost that if you linger, you are left behind!  A bracing pastis (my tipple of choice when in Paris) prepared us to be fêted by our leaders at ‘Au Trou Normand’, specialising in, of course, dishes from Normandy.  What my little partridge lacked in tenderness, he made up for in the hilarity he sparked among the diners, who laughed every time he raised a tiny wing in protest at my onslaught!

“By Monday, we were becoming scholars, able seriously to ‘get our eyes in’ at gorgeously tranquil Chantilly, especially as the guide was not only informative, but spoke English rather well.  (Pastis in Chantilly, if you are interested, is approximately one-fifth its price at ‘Les Deux Magots’ in Paris.)  Tuesday and Wednesday we spent at Versailles in the delightful, perfectly bilingual and immensely knowledgeable company of John Whitehead, author and scholar.  Track shoes were called for, as we motored through les Grands Appartements, les Petits Appartements, the chapel, le Grand Trianon, le Petit Trianon and Le Hameau (reserved for those who had the strength).  Sadly, I have no data on the price of pastis at Versailles; it seemed a much better idea to accompany Christopher Payne and the class to a specialist 19th-century antiques gallery at ‘Le Louvre des Antiquaires’ in Paris, as I likely never shall afford to visit as a client!

“By Thursday we all were totally up to speed and were able to take in both the ‘Galerie Mazarine’ and the ‘Salon Louis XV’ at the Bibliothèque Nationale without breaking stride, then off to the Musée de Nissim de Camondo, a hauntingly sad, but enticingly tasteful museum devoted to the decorative arts.  There was a surprise in store after lunch in the warm welcome and delightful afternoon tea offered up at the Hôtel de Charost, now the British Embassy, in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  It was, both literally and figuratively, the icing on the cake of a truly memorable learning experience.  On behalf of us all, I raise a grateful glass (of pastis, bien sûr) to all who made it possible.”

Heather Sabbagh, student on the MA Decorative Arts programme 2010-11

See also:

For enquiries or further information about the programme, please contact London Programme Admissions (tel. +44 (0)1280 820204, email london-programmes@buckingham.ac.uk).