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Coming in March 2024: The astonishing Picasso collection at the Hôtel Salé

Soon, we will have the privilege of contemplating the permanent hanging of the art collection which, from March 2024, will take place on three floors of the Hôtel Salé. A renovation deeply rooted in the innovative vision that now governs the museum.

Date: From from March 2024

Desires: Picasso, extraordinary place, retrospective, innovation.

Half a century ago, on April 8, 1973, the world lostPablo Picasso at the venerable age of 91, leaving in his wake an incredible abundance of artistic creations. Following a colossal inventory undertaking which spanned several years after his death, more than 3,700 pieces directly from the master's workshops were integrated into the national collections, thus forming the central core of the National Picasso Museum -Paris.

The Picasso collection
The Picasso collection

Since its inauguration in 1985, this collection has continued to grow, offering the public a constantly renewed window on the work of one of the most eminent artists of the 20th century. Through a selection of more than seventy emblematic works from the Musée national Picasso-Paris, including paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics, this exhibition highlights the diversity of techniques and styles explored by Pablo Picasso during of his prolific and constantly innovative life. From the emergence of cubism to the 1960s, this exhibition sheds light on a series of pivotal moments and transversal themes that run through all of his work.

The Hôtel Salé, an institution whose history is equally fascinating, presents itself as the largest, the most extravagant, even the most eccentric of the Parisian palaces of the 17th century!

The Hôtel Salé, as so well described by Bruno Foucart in 1985, stands out as "the largest, the most extraordinary, not to say extravagant, of the great Parisian hotels of the 17th century". It has had a series of residents over the centuries, which constitutes a characteristic feature of this paradoxical building. Before becoming a museum, it was relatively rarely inhabited, but rented to various prestigious individuals and institutions.

Its construction was undertaken by Pierre Aubert de Fontenay, at the same time as the construction of the famous and ambitious residence in Vaux-le-Vicomte by Nicolas Fouquet. Pierre Aubert, protégé of Fouquet, had managed to accumulate a considerable fortune in the years 1630-1640, propelling him to the rank of major financier in Paris. He also served as advisor and secretary to the king, which gave him an important status. His charge of collecting the salt tax on behalf of the king earned him the nickname "l'Hôtel Salé".

The future acquisition of the Hôtel Salé by Pierre Aubert was a testimony to his desire to highlight his new social ascension. He opted for a location that was still relatively undeveloped, an area that Henry IV had sought to develop by building the Place Royale (today the Place des Vosges). This urban extension of the historic Marais adjoined the Saint-Gervais Hospital and its cultivated lands, which, over time, were transformed into properties held by the nuns of Saint-Anastase. Pierre Aubert, lord of Fontenay, bought a plot of land of 3,700 m2 located north of rue de la Perle on May 16, 1656, for the sum of 40,000 pounds, from the latter. He chose a young and obscure architect named Jean Boulier de Bourges (or Jean de Boullier) to design the hotel. Jean Boulier came from a family of local masons, and his grandfather had already worked for the in-laws of Pierre Aubert de Fontenay, the Chastelains. Three years later, in 1659, the work was completed and Pierre Aubert was able to move into his new building. The sculpted decoration, including the sumptuous one of the main staircase, was entrusted to the brothers Gaspard and Balthazar Marsy, as well as Martin Desjardins.

The Hôtel Salé embodies a characteristic example of mazarine architecture, a period marked by a profound renewal of architectural forms, stimulated by new patrons such as Pierre Aubert. Italian Baroque, introduced by Cardinal Mazarin, was then in vogue and encouraged architects to design new proportions, combining them with the heritage of François Mansart. Thus, the Hôtel Salé has a double building and a double suite of rooms, an innovation which made it possible to enlarge the surface area. Its asymmetrical plan divides the courtyard façade in two thanks to a perpendicular wing, thus separating the main courtyard from the lower courtyard. The courtyard itself reflects the innovative trends of the time by forming an elegant curve that energizes the facade. This is punctuated by seven opening bays which highlight the central façade on three levels.

The pediment of the small avant-corps, in a classical style, echoes Mansart; above it, the immense pediment decorated with coats of arms, garlands, fruits and flowers, is part of the Baroque movement. The profusion of decorative sculptures, such as sphinxes and cupids, also indicates the overall baroque character of the facade, although that overlooking the garden is more sober.

Finally, the grand staircase is the centerpiece of this residence. It is inspired by Michelangelo's staircase system at the Laurentian Library in Florence. It is not a closed cage, but two flights of imposing steps, topped by a projecting balcony, then a gallery. Skillfully playing with perspective effects and bird's-eye views, this staircase is a veritable performance hall in itself. As for the sculpted stucco decoration, it has been described as "a sort of plastic translation of the paintings of Hannibal Carracci at the Farnese Gallery" by Jean-Pierre Babelon: eagles holding thunderbolts, genies surrounded by garlands, Corinthian pilasters and various deities, all this creates a captivating visual whirlwind.

In 1660, Pierre Aubert de Fontenay acquired various constructions which obstructed access to rue Vieille-du-Temple through the gardens. Among these was a tennis court which housed the Théâtre du Marais from 1634 to 1673, where Corneille created his first plays, Pierre Aubert maintaining the lease for the actors who practiced their art there.

Unfortunately, Pierre Aubert did not enjoy this splendor for long, because his fall occurred in 1663, at the same time as that of Fouquet. Following its ruin, this luxurious hotel attracted the greed of many creditors. A long legal battle spanned sixty years. During this time, the hotel was rented to the Republic of Venice to establish its embassy, then it was sold in 1728. In 1790, as property confiscated from an émigré, it was seized and used during the Revolution as a " national literary repository, used to store and inventory books from the convents in the area. In 1797, it was sold again and remained in the same family until 1962. During this period, it was rented to various institutions, notably the Ganser et Beuzelin pension, attended by Balzac, then to the École centrale des arts and manufactures (from 1829 to 1884), which considerably modified the interior layout of the building. Subsequently, it was occupied by a master bronze worker and ironworker, Henri Vian, followed by a consortium carrying out the same activity (until 1941), before becoming, from 1944, the School of Trades d'art of the City of Paris. The City ended up acquiring the hotel in 1962, when it was classified as a Historic Monument on October 29, 1968.

By this time, the original arrangements had largely been lost. The hotel's restoration period, carried out from 1974 to 1979, allowed most of its initial volumes to be restored, before the redevelopment orchestrated by architect Roland Simounet.

An incredible place which will host an extraordinary collection of Picassos...

Date: From from March 2024

Desires: Picasso, extraordinary place, retrospective, innovation.

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