Museums with 18th century objects in places that Jefferson likely frequented.
The Musée Nissim de Camondo
I consider this museum one of my most interesting finds in Paris. As you will read below, the mansion in which this museum is housed was built beginning in 1911. However, this mansion houses the owner's collection of 18th century furniture, art, instruments and dinnerware. When I say "houses" I really mean that it is magnificently displayed in rooms which create a spectacular setting and which give a feeling for living with these antiquities. Moreover, this mansion is located in one of the most elite locations in Paris. In Jefferson's time the area was mostly owned by the Duke d'Orleans and managed as an enormous pleasure park. When you look out the windows of this museum, you see that there still remains a lot of the beautiful park. Highly recommended. The site from which the following information is taken can be found at http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/archives/gb/04museecamondo/index.html where the text is in English (or, if not, be sure to search for the British flag to click on) and where are linked a number of other interesting museums.
The Musée Nissim de Camondo
One of the most sumptuous private homes from the early twentieth century in Paris Moïse de Camondo, a reputed Parisian banker during the Belle Epoque, was a passionate collector of French furniture and art objects from the eighteenth century, ans he amassed a collection of unusual quality. In 1911, he hired architect René Sergent to build a private mansion next to Parc Monceau that would be worthy of this collection and suitable for his family. The design was modeled after that of the Petit Trianon in Versailles, but behind the handsome décor of wood-paneled apartments were hidden the accoutrements of modern life, including kitchens, offices and bathrooms. The home, which is fully preserved in its original condition, offers an opportunity to discover the taste of a great collector and to get a glimpse of the everyday life of an aristocratic home.
An exceptional collection of art objects Antique woodwork serves as a backdrop to furniture by cabinetmarket and joiners working for the Garde Meuble Royal (Royal Furniture Repository) surch as Oeben, Riesener and Jacob. Gilt bronze Clocks and wall clocks, barometers and chandeliers, mounted vases adorn cabinets and boiseries. Two particularly spectacular masterpieces of tableware: the Orloff silver dinner service commissionned by Catherine II of Russia from the silversmith Roettiers in 1770, and the so-called "Buffon" porcelain services, made at Sèvres in the 1780s and fituring a bird decor. Sculptures and paintings also reflect the collector's sensibilities, with busts by Houdon, portraits by Elmisabeth Vigée Lebrun, landscapes by Guardi and hunting scenes by Oudry.
The Chateau de Versailles
As Minister Plenipotentiary (Ambassador) from the United States, Thomas Jefferson attended many meetings with the French Foreign Minister, Vergennes, as well as court rituals and official gatherings with King Louis XVI. Jefferson was not very comfortable with the extreme sophistication of Versailles rituals and etiquette and stood out among other officials due to his plain clothing and resistance to wearing a wig. Nonetheless, he was popular and considered intelligent, friendly and cooperative. Jefferson submitted to the Court of Versailles major reports on foreign trade, finances and resources.
I strongly recommend going to the above site if you intend on visiting Versailles. For one thing, you can buy tickets on line and avoid standing in lines at the Chateau. (Another hint is that when you get to the Chateau, there is a ticket office open which will sell you tickets for just a little extra which will let you go in a special entrance an avoid all lines.) It is a good idea to plan your day or days before you go because the palace itself and the grounds are very extensive. There is a tram that runs through much of the grounds-to get to the Trianons and the Hameau, for example-and I recommend you pick it up at the fountain.
Official Residence In May 6, 1682, Versailles became the official residence of the Court of France, supplanting the palaces at the Louvre and Saint-Germain-en-Laye. From 1678 to 1684, meanwhile, the terrace of the new chateau was transformed into the Hall of Mirrors, symbolizing the power of the absolute monarch. Feverish building activity then gave birth to the North and South Wings, the Orangery, Stables and Grand Lodgings; the vast construction site was headed by royal architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The last major feature built during the reign of Louis XIV, the Chapel Roayal, was completed in 1710 by Robert de Cotte.
The Catacombes What is a catacombe? My dictionary defines it as "a subterranean cemetery or galleries with recesses for tombs. In Jefferson's time in Paris, in fact, in 1785, the administration of the city decided to sanctify some of the quarries to the south of Paris as receptacles for the remains of the dead from cemeteries within the center of the city. The reason was, that the city's cemeteries were becoming odious with the stench of the dead. Thus, in 1786, the first carts carrying earth and bones from central Paris to beyond the city's limits began to make their way south. This project lasted ten years--through the Revolution and beyond. Only a small part of the extensive quarries under Paris were ever used as cemeteries. But the rest remained, sometimes endangering the stability of the city's streets and, during WWII employed by the Resistance as hideouts and pathways to surprise attacks against the Nazis on the surface. Where did the quarries come from? Look around you in Paris. You will see that all the old buildings and many of the newer (19th century and beyond) are made of blocks of sandstone. These stones were dug from the ground in and around Paris. In the second half of the 18th century, when Jefferson was in Paris, there was a tremendous building boom and so the quarries were working at a fast pace and being rapidly expanded to supply the stone. An interesting feature of your visit to the only part of the subterranean cemetaries and corridors open to tourists at Place Denfort-Rochereau is to realize that in Jefferson's time, this location, as integral a part of central Paris as it is now, was in reality beyond the outskirts of the city-a wasteland of meadows and quarries. Jump to the following accurate Wikipedia description of the Catacombes to understand more about where they are and what they are. I have never seen evidence that Jefferson descended into the Catacombes, but I am sure he witnessed the processions of carts with their priests and torches moving the sanctified burial earth from the center city to the outskirts. In 1786 the first removals began at the Church of the Innocents which was near the Fountain of the Innocents which exists in the neighborhood of the Chatelet in the 1st Arrondissement. Visit the Wikipedia description by clicking below: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catacombes_de_Paris