Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hotel de Salm, Paris

One of my favorite buildings to visit on my walks around the city is the Hotel de Salm home to the Legion of Honour Museum next to the Musee d'Orsay along the banks of the Seine. I've never been inside however despite a rather fascinating collection and renowned building. There are simply always more pressing things to do or it's just too lovely of a day to spend inside.
Completed just before the revolution in 1782 for a German prince by the architect Pierre Rousseau it was soon taken over by the new government for use by the Legion of Honor. Rousseau's best-known work today is this building but he was really the starchitect of the day, first for the ancien regime and then the governments which were to follow.

The entry court probably looks familiar to you as it has been copied in many forms in public buildings around the world.
This rare floorplan above (from the book The Architecture of the French Enlightenment by Allan Braham) is situated with the Seine towards the top of the image, what many people now consider to be the 'front' of the building despite no entry.  The addition from the mid 1920s to the lower right now houses the main entry into the museum and other museum offices.

Very few tourists who visit the Musee d'Orsay (just to the right of the image above) know to turn the corner to catch a glimpse of the main entry and courtyard of the Hotel de Salm.
 I've always admired the 1920s quiet beaux-arts entry to the museum which faces the d'Orsay.
The interiors are quite spectacular and date to the rebuilding of the structure in 1871 when it was burned during the Commune. How  I would have loved to have seen the original! What is it with the French burning their heritage every few decades?
The main salon seen in the image above and below is the center of the river facade, obviously with water views.
The image below taken after the Commune shows the burned shell. In the background you can see the opulent Palais d'Orsay which was also burned during the Commune and eventually replaced with the train station which now houses the famous art museum.  The burned palace sat unused for 30 years, a daily reminder of the civil war.
The Hotel de Salm may be relatively obscure to the common tourist but has inspired many of our most beloved public buildings and been nearly replicated many times, most notably at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, seen below and at my previous post HERE, and also at the Chateau de Rochefort en Yvelines (a few images below).  It was one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite buildings, aspects of which he incorporated into his own home at Monticello.
The odd thing to me about the Legion of Honor in San Francisco is that the main facade of the original in Paris which faces the Seine and is most widely known, is actually the back of the museum in San Francisco which no one ever sees (below).
The museum should really provide a more landscaped courtyard to the rear of the museum to take advantage of the beautiful structure.
One really senses the similarity of the buildings most through these aerial views (the Chateau de Rochefort en Yvelines seen below).
The French book L'hotel de Salm published by Monelle Hayot further details the existing building and opulent interiors should you be interested.
Most images are not my own.  To see accreditation please refer to the image file names.


Karena Albert said...

A truly beautiful building with so much history. I agree that a good landscape architect would make the courtyard look so much more inviting!

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Stephilius said...

Such a lovely building. And as familiar as I am with the destruction during the Commune, I somehow missed that the hôtel de Salm had been gutted, too. Such a loss.

paintbrush said...

Wow! Thanks for pointing this out. The next time I'm in Paris I will definitely visit this beautiful place.

Chronica Domus said...

Hmmm... I'm afraid I was one of those visitors that walked right past this gem. How I did not see the resemblance with our Palace of The Legion of Honor here in San Francisco is beyond me. Next time, however, I shall make a point of visiting.

Windlost said...

Hi Stefan, you will be pleased to know that I have visited the Legion of Honor musee in Paris! It was a rainy day and David and I had just had lunch near the musee d'Orsay after walking on St-Germain. I knew the building and its famous rotunda (not sure what to call the Seine-facing room) but I didn't know what it was or what it housed! Then we saw the entrance to the legion of honour museum as we happened to be walking on that side of the street. David was thrilled (he loves medals and honours) so we went inside. The museum itself was quite small but so many fascinating displays and also some clothing. I don't recall there being any means of accessing the palais from the museum but perhaps it can be viewed from the courtyard entrance. I wonder if it's accessible? Likely it houses government offices now but makes one wonder what is happening in those grand rooms. I will have to do more research.
Thanks for reminding me of this lovely Paris palais. It is still an endless list, my things to see and do in Paris.

Xo Terri

Michael Hampton said...

My favorite building in Paris!

Nancy {at} powellbrower at home said...

Spectacular building. The Musee d'Orsay is my all time favorite and I was too awestruck to notice across the street. So many new must-sees on my list next time! Nancy

Marcus Langford said...

I swear to God those who designed the buildings of old in DC were some design thieves. LOL! So many of these buildings look like the ones here in this area. Great photos!

Lord Cowell said...

I love the mighty colonnade enclosing the entire courtyard.
There are some similarities with the Royal Naval College at Greenwich too.
I didn't know about the Legion of Honour in San Fran.