Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Strasbourg: The Museum of Decorative Arts

The Palais Rohan, arguably Strasbourg's grandest building, was constructed between 1732 and 1742 to serve as the residence of Armand-Gaston-Maximilien de Rohan-Soubise, prince-bishop of Strasbourg, landgrave of Basse-Alsace, prince of the Holy Empire, cardinal, grand almoner of France, and grand commander of the Order of the Holy Spirit. This august person, one of the most powerful in France, desired a house befitting his status, particularly in light of Alsace's recently having been made part of France. Later the palace hosted a succession of the famous and powerful, including Louis IV, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon I, and Charles X. In this view of the palace's main courtyard, you can see the windows of the apartment of Napoleon I, which run across the ground floor; his bedroom was on the right-hand side.

The ground floor, and some of the second floor, now houses the Museum of Decorative Arts, which includes the cardinals' apartments. While much of the palace was damaged or destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II, the ground-floor rooms have been almost completely restored. Some, like this huge hall that starts the visit, are imposing neo-classical set pieces.

Other spaces are more intimate. Great details abound, including the doors. Some doors are, relatively simple, in the style of Louis XV, even if still all white and gilt. Others, like those shown here, are much more ornate.

In one place the restoration of the paneling around a window frame was incomplete, and you could see the underlying construction of the building. The contrast between the sumptuousness and completeness of the paneling and the rough materials of the inner walls was fascinating.

The cardinals' library, one of the palace's most complete rooms, comes at the end of the tour of the apartments. The books are period-correct replacements for the collection that had been destroyed.

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