Musée de Cluny/Musée du Moyen Age – Review

The Museum of the Middle Ages is situated at 6, Place Paul Painlevé in the 5th Arrondissment in Paris. At ground level you see the 15th century ‘Hotel de Cluny’, but this is built over the remains of Gallo-Roman baths built around 200AD. The highlight is said to be the series of six tapestries comprising the ‘Lady with the unicorn’. I can’t comment on that as they were on tour in Japan when we visited.

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny

But this is still a museum worth visiting if you have an interest in carvings, tapestries or decorative arts of the middle ages.

Now, when you get to the courtyard above, don’t rush inside as you’ll miss a real treat – turn sharp left as as you pass the turret and you will see two sundials on the walls. The complete one – still pretty accurate today – was installed in 1674.

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – sundial

The carvings are spectacular – among the best you will see anywhere

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – wood carving

 

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny

And not just the monumental pieces – these chess pieces from the 12th century are reminiscent of the Lewis chessmen

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – chess pieces

Past the first main display space you will find some stairs leading down into the roman baths. The tepidarium is the most complete, and still has its roof. One small mosaic is displayed, but really this part is largely about the roman construction of the walls and layout of the baths.

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – Roman mosaic

 

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – Gallo-Roman baths – tepidarium

Among the decorative works are this equus water jug with tap

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – Equus water jug

and this reliquary in the form of a dove

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – Dove reliquary

There were some great illuminated manuscripts too – including some ecclesiastical music with beautifully decorated details

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – illuminated manuscript (detail)

And of course while I walked around taking pictures and exploring, Sharon was able to focus on her sketch of the day – of some statues related to Notre Dame cathedral, and lost for some centuries – but then Sharon has already discussed those 🙂

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – Sketching

And we did find a unicorn – just not the one for which the museum is famous. But this too was done by the famous Gobelins tapestry works

Musee de Cluny

Musee de Cluny – tapestry

The Musée de Cluny is well worth a visit – and at €8.50 is relatively inexpensive – it is definitely value for money. It is open from 0930 – 5.45 Wed-Monday. Website is here.


 

Golden hour and Blue hour in Paris

The hour before sunset and the hour after provide wonderful light wherever you are, and in Paris it is a great time to take photos.

Paris dusk

Paris dusk

We took a walk down to the Seine and past the Notre Dame cathedral – I’m always looking for a different angle – which is not easy with such a well-known and much photographed building.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

So it comes down to the light and how best to capture it, and perhaps go beyond the standard ‘full frontal’ of the cathedral doors and towers.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

The shot above is actually a combination of three exposures – dark, centre, and light to increase the dynamic range – because the camera is not as sensitive as the human eye. This is known as ‘high dynamic range’ or ‘HDR’. You can over-do it, but I prefer to keep it subtle, and just bring out the details at each light level. The photos were combined in a small program called ‘Photomatix‘.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Golden and blue hours can also be a good time to capture the beauty of the bridges over the river – Here I rested the camera on the bridge parapet and took a couple of long exposures of the next bridge over. It is not always convenient to carry a tripod around, but there is usually something – a lamp post, or a railing – against which to brace the camera for this kind of shot. Here I brought the ISO down to 100 and the aperture down to around f/9.0 to give me an exposure of around 3 seconds.

Bridge over the Seine

Bridge over the Seine

The exposure length also smoothes out the ripples on the water, giving better definition to the lights and their reflections.

Bridge over the Seine

Bridge over the Seine

You can see that the traffic on the left which would otherwise provide distracting points of light has been smoothed into the subtle red streak of the tail lights.

So if the light is a good colour – with the darkening blue in the sky contrasting with the warm yellow of the street lights, a long exposure can really bring out the details, and the mood of Paris by dusk.


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Sketching at the Musée de Cluny

The Musée de Cluny houses a collection of medieval arts and crafts. The Hôtel de Cluny it self is an interesting building as it is an example of French domestic medieval architecture. You enter the museum through a cobblestone courtyard which immediately triggered my imagination.

Cluny Museum drawingIt has a particularly interesting collection of sculptures some of which relate to Notre-Dame. One series holds interesting history as originally they had decorated the cathedral but were vandalised by revolutionaries in 1793. After being cast aside they were purchased by a builder and he re-cycled them using them to shore up the foundations of a private mansion he was building. They were rediscovered in 1977 enabling historians to understand a lot more about sculpture of the period.

These had such an interesting history I decided to draw one of them. The piece I chose is a sort of triangular formation which proved quite a challenge! Click on the image above and you can see a larger version. This also fills EDM drawing challenge 38 “Draw at a Museum”

This is what the page spread looked like when I wrote in it later that evening.

Cluny Museum page spread I included our 2 entry tickets which illustrate items in the museum and map given to visitors.

Cluny Museum page spread

Cluny Museum page spread The Musée de Cluny owns a famous series of tapestries called The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. They are highly acclaimed and many people visit just to see these. They are however undergoing cleaning and restoration before travelling to Japan to be exhibited there. I was aware of this as the information is on their website, so was not disappointed.

There is a lot to see for a ‘small’ museum such as 12th- and 13th-century crosses, some fantastic illuminated manuscripts, and loads of carvings.

A highlight for me was the fan-vaulted medieval chapel and downstairs are the ruins of Roman baths. It was a great afternoon and since it is a ‘small’ museum there were no lines and no crowds.

Here a snap taken by Jerry of me drawing.

drawing


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