7.2.13

Hôtel de Beauvais


This building, « hôtel particulier », Hôtel de Beauvais, dates from around 1655-60, built in a French baroque style – architect Antoine Lepautre. The front side has lost a few decorations, but basically the building looks very much the same as on the 17th century drawing. It's a remarkable architectural achievement. When you look at it and enter the main gate, you have the impression of something completely symmetric, whereas with a bird’s eye view you will see how the architect has “cheated” with a space which is far from symmetric. A bit further down you can see the original plan (of the first floor) and what it looks like today on Google Earth. One exception from what normally was the case with these townhouses is that the “noble part” is not behind a central court, but directly along the street.






It was built for a merchant, Pierre de Beauvais, and perhaps more especially for his wife, Catherine Bellier – who was a much appreciated handmaiden to Queen Anne d’Autriche (Anne of Austria), wife, widow, of Louis XIII, regent and mother of Louis XIV. Catherine Bellier acquired her reputation – and fortune – for having relieved the young Louis XIV of his virginity - with the mother’s encouragments and approval. He was then 14 … and she was 38. She was furthermore known to be quite ugly and had the nickname of “Cateau-la-Borgnesse”, the “One-eyed Caton”. There are no known paintings or engravings of her, but a mascaron decorating the building is supposed to have her as model and… no more comments . She was described as intelligent, plotting… and despite her looks had a multitude of influent lovers. Obviously Pierre de Beauvais and Catherine Bellier were not too concerned about their “image”, looking at these mascarons of her and of him – happy and sad. We can also see heads of goats. (Goat = “bellier” in French.)


The address is Rue François-Miron, which originally was called – and was a prolongation of - Rue Saint-Antoine and it used to be the main street leading from the east into the centre of Paris – before rue de Rivoli was created during the 19th century. I already wrote about this street in a previous post, about all the ancient buildings around it… including the 13th century cellar under the premises of the association “Paris Historique” (of which I’m a member), including the beautiful Saint-Gervais – Saint-Protais Church in which the Couperin family members were the organists… The street leads to the back side of the Paris Town Hall where those days an arch in the building brought you to the front  side of the Town Hall, those days’ Place de Grève…




Along this street, the newly wedded Louis XIV and Maria Theresa (of Spain), in 1660, made their triumphal entry into Paris in an enormous procession, followed by possibly a million people. On the balcony of the then newly built Hôtel de Beauvais, Queen Anne, Catherine Bellier, the Cardinal Mazarin, the Marshal Turenne… and others watched it all.  Here is the balcony they were standing on.




The building later changed owners several times and was finally in a very bad state, having been used for workshops, flats, when it (thanks to “Paris Historique” and others) was saved from destruction, as from 1995 restored and  since 2004 occupied by the Paris administrative court of appeal (Cour Administrative d’Appel de Paris). The inside rooms are today quite “naked”, modern, the suspended small garden is gone … but the stairs of the official entrance have been saved…


… as well as a beautiful circular staircase for the staff (someone engraved a heart).


In 1763, the then seven year old Mozart is said to have stayed here with his family during his first visit to Paris, as guests of the then owner, the Bavarian ambassador. What is clearly documented is that he gave concerts here, in the “gallery”, behind these windows. With his dad Leopold and his sister  Nannerl  they may have performed one of the first sonatas composed by the young Mozart, e.g. this one. 



     

The building was constructed on top of some medieval houses, one of which had belonged to Heloise (famous for the Heloise and Abelard love story) and the cellar below, which was used as a storage, has been emptied of gravel and dirt and restored thanks to voluntary work by members of the above mentioned “Paris Historique”.

To end this long story and again referring to the above mentioned Couperin family, I cannot help giving you a chance to again listen to one of my favourite pieces, “Les barricades mystérieuses” by François Couperin (see previous post), here as performed in the movie “Tree of Life”.
    

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tour, Peter!

Absolutely fascinating...

Maria

Virginia said...

Ahhh, the music is the perfect ending to this lovely post Peter. It seems you were all alone in this beautiful place. How did you manage that. What no tourists posing in front of everything?

I think I will just sit and listen for a bit.
V

martinealison said...

Bonjour,
Je pense que je ne donnerais pas un pièce pour le guide !! mais un gros billet!!!...
Merci pour l'ensemble de vos explications qui accompagnent de très belles photos.
Heureuse de vous retrouver, je rentre seulement!
Gros bisous.

Studio at the Farm said...

Peter, this is my favorite post ever! Your photos of this exquisite building are wonderful, and your historical tid-bits are fascinating! Thank you so much.

Cezar and Léia said...

hmm those are scaring faces, I prefer the goats! :)
Wonderful architecture, the arches and columns are amazing!
Wonderful pictures dear Peter, congrats!
Léia

hpy said...

On en apprend des choses ici - entre autres tes goûts pour les femmes (ou tes dégoûts...)

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

I feel as if I have just had my own private tour of Hôtel de Beauvais. A wonderful experience. Thank you

mariemancini said...

I'm madly interested in everything which is (even a little bit) connected with Louis XIV, so thank's for info about balcony! :D

Btw: love your blog!

Synne said...

Oh my, I walk past here regularly, but I had no idea what it looked like inside - or under! I love the figures that represent specific people, and the "leftovers" from the earlier buildings in the cellar. Very fascinating!

Scheherazade said...

As usual, wonderful post.

Starman said...

The music is exquisite. One of the things I most admire about Europeans is the way they preserve their heritage!

ALAIN said...

Il ne manque qu'une chose pour que cet hôtel devienne une merveilleuse résidence : du vin dans la cave.

Cergie said...

Désolé de te dire que ton balcon est moins talentueux que celui de Manet et ne finira pas pour la postérité au musée d'Orsay.

http://www.cineclubdecaen.com/peinture/peintres/manet/balcon.htm

Tu envisages de déménager dans cet hôtel ? Ce n'est pas un peu grand pour toi ?

claude said...

Magnifique post, Peter.
On bâtissait de belles constructions à cette époque, Il eut été dommage que cet Hôtel tombe en ruines.
La sonate de Mozart est très belle, j'adore le clavecin.
Perdre sa virginité avec un laideron, quelle horreur !

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another chair vacation, and the musical selection will soon be downloaded. Merci

Jeanie said...

This is an area I thought I was familiar with, but obviously not familiar enough! So, thanks for enlightening me (and others!). Poor Catherine -- if someone had made that sculpture of me I probably would have had to go into therapy.