- FRANCE - PART ONE -

Musée d'Orsay Part I

LINKS to other pages in the FRANCE PART ONE site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

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From Wikipedia and the official Musée d'Orsay website (reproduced here with acknowledgement to the authors):


"The construction of the Quai d'Orsay began in 1708 near the Pont Royal, and was completed a century later under Napoleon First's Empire. The aristocratic vocation of the neighbourhood was already well established at the end of the 18th century when the Hôtel de Salm (today the Musée de la Légion d'Honneur) was built between 1782 and 1788.

"During the 19th century two buildings stood upon the site of the future Orsay station; the Cavalry Barracks, built by Jean-Charles Bonnard, and the Palais d'Orsay, built by Jacques Lacornée, dating from between 1810 and 1838. Although the Palais had originally been planned for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it eventually housed the Cour des Comptes (Court of Accounts) and the Conseil d'Etat (State Council). During the violent upheaval known as the Paris Commune in 1871 the entire neighbourhood was burnt down. For thirty years, the ruins of the Palais d'Orsay served as reminders of the horrors of civil war."

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"On the eve of the 1900 World Fair, the French government ceded the land to the Orleans railroad company who, disadvantaged by the remote location of the Gare d'Austerlitz, planned to build a more central terminus station on the site of the ruined Palais d'Orsay. In 1897, the company consulted three architects: Lucien Magne, Emile Bénard and Victor Laloux. The project was a challenging one due to the vicinity of the Louvre and the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur'. The new station needed to be perfectly integrated into its elegant surroundings. Victor Laloux, who had just completed the Hôtel de Ville in Tours, was chosen as winner of the competition in 1898.

"The station and hotel, built within two years, were inaugurated for the World Fair on July 14th 1900. Laloux chose to cover the modern metallic structures with the façade of the hotel which, built in the academic style using finely cut stone from the regions of Charente and Poitou, successfully blended in with its neighbours. Inside, all the modern techniques were used: ramps and lifts for luggage, elevators for passengers, sixteen underground railtracks, reception services on the ground floor, and electric traction. The open porch and lobby continued into the great hall which was 32 metres high, 40 metres wide and 138 metres long.

"From 1900 to 1939, the Gare d'Orsay was the head of the southwestern French railroad network. The hotel received numerous travellers in addition to welcoming associations and political parties for their banquets and meetings. However, after 1939, the station was to serve only the suburbs as its platforms had become too short for the modern, longer trains that appeared with the progressive electrification of the railroads."

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"The station is superb and looks like a Palais des beaux-arts..." wrote the painter Edouard Detaille in 1900. Eighty-six years later, his prophecy was fulfilled.

"The transformation of the station into a museum was accomplished by ACT architecture group made up of M. Bardon, M. Colboc and M. Philippon. Their project was chosen in 1979 out of six propositions and would respect Laloux's architecture while also reinterpreting it according to its new function. The project highlighted the great hall, using it as the museum's main artery, and transformed the magnificent glass awning into the museum's entrance.

"The museum has been organised on three levels. On the ground floor galleries are distributed on either side of the central nave, which is overlooked by the terraces of the middle level which, in turn, open up into additional exhibition galleries. The top floor is installed above the lobby, which covers the length of the Quai, and continues into the highest elevations of the former hotel and over the Rue de la Légion d'Honneur (formerly rue de Bellechasse).

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"The museum's specific exhibition spaces and different facilities are distributed throughout the three levels: the pavilion Amont, the glass walkway of the former station's western pinion, the museum restaurant (installed in the dining hall of the former hotel), the Café des Hauteurs, the bookshop and the auditorium."

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The ornate station clock in the main gallery (right).

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Gare d'Orsay insignia in the roof of the old station (left).

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The Musée d'Orsay restaurant (right).

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Sculpture in the main gallery (left).


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A model of the Opera House set into the floor of the main gallery (right)......


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......and a cutaway model of the Opera House (left).

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