Visit the Place des Vosges apartment as it was in Victor Hugo’s time

"6 place Royale" en 1824
The apartment at Place des Vosges, which was re-let after the departure of the Hugo family and later converted into classrooms, has undergone many changes. The layout of the rooms has changed and most of the furniture was dispersed in 1852, at the sale following his departure for exile. However, documents which have been conserved in the museum or testimonials collected from visitors have helped us recreate the atmosphere of the apartment as it was during Victor Hugo’s time.

Despite some uncertainties, several documents have allowed us to restore the layout of the rooms as well as their purpose, which has incidentally changed over time. The main document is the report by Guignon the floor polisher (in the museum), who cleaned the parquet flooring as well as the carpets and furniture, and did tapestry work, hung pictures, etc. The many bills in the museum archives reveal the details of the domestic life of the Hugo family, while also evoking commercial activity in the neighbourhood.
Some details, such as the fireplace in the dining room, the “Gothic” furniture, a liking for tapestries, and combinations of fabrics and copper studs, point to the decor at Hauteville House.

The staircase of the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée was probably modified in the second half of the nineteenth century. At the time of Victor Hugo, the entrance hallway led to the current antechamber (1) and then, on the left, straight into a kitchen (11) looking onto the inner courtyard.

  • Plan de l'appartement au temps de Victor Hugo

    Plan de l'appartement au temps de Victor Hugo

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In the antechamber Victor Hugo’s tastes become clear: two large chests, plaster casts, copper medallions, paintings, engravings... Guignon counts up to eighty of these up to December 1840, when a mahogany console presenting the silverware was installed between the kitchen door and the door of the living room.

From here you can access the leather lounge (2) which overlooks the square. Decorated in patent leather, apart from a wall which has a medieval tapestry from top to bottom, the lounge has a stove and a large carved dresser-cabinet from the Middle Ages. Opposite this is a bench in the same style, and a shelf between the two doors of the corridor and the main lounge. There are plenty of vases and porcelain. A variety of antique weapons are also to be found hanging there. Finally, the red damask doors and a ceiling in the same fabric installed in 1837 complete the picture. In November 1840, this room was converted into a dining room when Madame Adèle Hugo created her bedroom; at this stage the marble floor was covered with an old Persian rug.

  • Ecritoire de Mme Hugo, 1ère moitié du XIX siècle.

    Ecritoire de Mme Hugo, 1ère moitié du XIX siècle.

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This first lounge is separated from the dining room (3) on the courtyard side by a corridor. It has a fireplace inlaid with patterned ceramic tiles... Victor Hugo created the same type of fireplace for the dining room of Hauteville House. These two rooms and the hallway previously occupied the space now taken by the Red Lounge.

Along the façade which had a balcony which has now disappeared, visitors move on to the main lounge that communicates with the corridor through a door at the back (which was blocked off in November 1840). The floor is covered with a huge rug and the walls are hung with the famous red damask which is dominant in the residence. On the wall opposite the entrance, the fireplace is covered in a tapestry trimmed with gilded studs. This is surrounded by cupboards with doors hidden under precious silk drapes on a red background to the right and with a blue background to the left.  The furniture includes gilded wood console tables, a carved wooden sofa and the famous large sofa which is topped by the “Dey canopy”. This is an Ottoman banner originating from the capture of Algiers which was offered to the poet by Lieutenant Eblé. According to a vicious rumour this canopy sofa was Hugo’s “throne”, reigning over the Romantics who flocked to this lounge. Ceremonial portraits adorn this room: the marble bust by David d'Angers on its pedestal, draped in red silk and adorned with gilded studs. Also featured are paintings of Madame Hugo by Louis Boulanger, of the master of the house with his son François-Victor by Auguste de Châtillon, and a full-length portrait of General Hugo and Léopoldine by Dubufe. In July 1837, the painting of St. Evre, Inez de Castro, was hung here. The Duke and Duchess of Orleans had given to Victor Hugo. It is this main lounge that is especially evocative of Hugo’s visitors, among them the members of the Romantic circle, artists, writers, politicians and personalities who all flocked here.