DÉCOUVREZ LES 14 MUSÉES DE LA VILLE DE PARIS
At the time that Deeds and Words (1875-1876) was published, Victor Hugo’s life had been divided into three major periods: before exile, exile and after exile. The apartment has been arranged according to these time periods and is thus organised as a chronological journey.
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This room is evocative of the family atmosphere, the places where Victor Hugo spent his childhood and youth, through to the time of his first literary success. The family portraits were mostly by relatives or friends, the brothers Eugène and Achille Devéria or his sister-in-law Julie Duvidal de Montferrier, a talented pupil of Baron Gérard, and Madame Adèle Hugo herself.
Hung with red damask, this lounge evokes the atmosphere of an apartment which, in Victor Hugo’s time, was a place given over to literature, art and politics around the figurehead of the Romantic Movement. Among the visitors were Théophile Gautier, Lamartine, Dumas, Mérimée, David d’Angers... On the walls are works of art which were once hung in the large lounge. These include family portraits by Louis Boulanger and Auguste de Châtillon, a marble bust of the poet by David d’Angers and a canvas depicting the story of Inez de Castro, a gift from the Duke and Duchess of Orléans to the master of the house.
In this room and the following one, we enter the period of exile in Guernsey. The room demonstrates a little-known facet of Victor Hugo’s genius, his talent as a “decorator” which only the museum is able to show, through the decor and furniture designed for the house of Juliette Drouet, Hauteville Fairy.
Bought by Paul Meurice from Juliette’s nephew in order to be donated to the museum, this decor was installed, with the help of Asian art merchant Siegfried Bing, as a “Chinese Lounge” and separated from the Gothic-inspired furniture in the dining room and bedroom of the Guernsey home. These Chinese-style panels were designed by Hugo in 1863-1864 and painted with the help of Tom Gore, a craftsman who was already employed at the Hauteville House worksite. They form the backdrop for the porcelain that covers the walls and shelves. The poet’s imagination comes to the fore with fantasy and humour, peppered with intimate allusions to his beloved: the monograms VH and JD are to be found throughout the decor.
To complete the collection there is the table offered to Juliette on which he wrote the first series of The Legend of the Ages in 1859, with a dedication written on the table-top itself.
The Table with Four Inkwells (Lamartine, Dumas, Sand and Hugo), assembled by Victor Hugo, was destined for a charity auction with proceeds going to children living in poverty in Guernsey.
Panneau dans le salon chinois © Françoise Cochennec / Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet
A fondness for Gothic furniture which was already evident in the apartment in the Place Royale is again demonstrated in the furnishings at Hauteville House and Hauteville Fairy. Hugo, often accompanied by Juliette or his sons, engaged in a “hunt for old chests” from Guernsey at the time that he was buying furniture from the Haute Epoque or Renaissance periods. Hugo had them dismantled and then reassembled according to his fancy or his decorative requirements, in accordance with his designs, with the work carried out by a team of Guernsey carpenters headed by Mauger. Thus a door became a table, chests become sideboards or benches, coils of thread became candle holders and table legs became columns, giving the furniture a Gothic look.
This room and part of the next is now devoted to the display of “pocket-sized” exhibits, each on a given theme or news item. The public can thus view works from collections (such as drawings, photographs, engravings, manuscripts, prints, etc.) that, for reasons of conservation, are not permanently exhibited.
This room, which was once the writer’s study, now showcases works evoking Victor Hugo’s glory after his return from exile. These include his portrait by Léon Bonnat, which has become an iconic image. The portrait of his grandchildren, Georges and Jeanne, brings to mind The Art of Being a Grandfather, while the moving image of Juliette Drouet a few months before her death, a work by Bastien-Lepage, recalls the end of a life marked by mourning. The Heroic Bust by Rodin seems to cast Hugo in immortality.
Le salon du retour d'exil à l'emplacement du cabinet de travail de Victor Hugo
Thanks to the generosity of his grandchildren Georges and Jeanne, Victor Hugo’s bedroom at 130 Avenue d'Eylau, where he spent the last years of his life (1878 to 1885), has been faithfully recreated. Among the furniture items are gifts that the writer and public figure received for his 80th birthday: The Republic by Clésinger, and a Sèvres vase given by Jules Ferry on behalf of the government. Also displayed is the famous raised desk at which Hugo would write standing up. It was in this bed that Victor Hugo died on 22 May 1885.