Musée des Arts Decoratifs – Daily Life From Medieval to Modern

Attached to the Louvre Museum, but accessible through another entrance, is the Musée des Arts Decoratifs — a place that collects and displays what we've designed, created, bought, sat on, and played with. Musée des Arts Decoratifs is a presentation and celebration of decorative arts; a time machine of the objects and crafts that filled the lives of people since the Middle Ages, right up to the present day.

See the vast and fascinating collection of the things that have surrounded us for centuries — everything from furniture to fashion; jewelry to jouets (toys); glassware to graphic design; posters and even advertising. It's the stuff of lifestyle and absolutely riveting. We'll take a quick look at the twelve departments and what you'll find there. Let's go back, back in time to the Middle Ages…

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The 5 Chronological Departments

The 19th Century

The Middle Ages & the Renaissance

You can spend hours, days, at Arts Decoratifs soaking in the daily life of those who came before us. The Middle Ages & the Renaissance department displays the oldest objects in the museum reflecting "the decor, the art of living" from a period covering 400 years, starting in the 12th century. There are small sculptures, paintings, religious artifacts, stained glass panels, and of course furniture of the period, with even whole rooms recreated.

17th & 18th Centuries

Next in order is the department of the 17th & 18th centuries. From the more finely wrought pieces in this collection you can see the beginning of a distinction between artists and artisans, demonstrated in a collection that includes ceramics, woodwork, furniture, paintings, sculptures, leather goods, carpets, tapestries, musical instruments, scientific instruments, and so on.

The 19th Century

Similar displays cover the art of life in the 19th century — here there are thirteen exhibits illustrating household interiors, complete room reconstructions, and the objects from shop windows covering decorative arts from 1800 to 1889.

Jeanne Lanvin Apartment

Art Nouveau & Art Déco

This department brings us into the Modern Era, to the two periods of the early 20th century that still speak to us today. The Art Nouveau period ran from 1890 to 1910. Art Déco followed, from 1910 to 1936. Displays for each include decorative arts creations ranging from furniture to the arts of the table to room design, sculpture, painting and stained glass. A highlight for us is the reconstruction of the private apartment of pioneer fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin, designed by Albert Armand Rateau in 1925.

Modern & Contemporary

Using its starting point as the 1937 Paris Universal Exposition, taking up from where the Art Déco department left off, this extremely diverse department brings together unique artisan pieces and mass-produced objects in the fields of furniture, lighting, ceramics, glass, and metalworking. It makes for a compelling collection of the decorative arts leading up to today. We love the chairs and cabinetry and other household objects.

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7 Thematic Departments

Elsa Schiaparelli

The fact that Musée des Arts Decoratifs is a kind of mash-up of what was at one time separate museums is shown here in the even thematic departments. The former Musée de la Mode et du Textile is now the department of Mode / Textile. Similarly, the museum's department of Publicité / Design arose from a former Musée de l’Affiche.

Today there are departments dedicated to glassware, advertising & graphic design, even the art of wallpaper, plus the following four.

Arts Graphiques

Over 150,000 drawings from the 16th to the 21st centuries are collected in this department — although only a small fraction are on display at any given time. In fact, due to the fragile nature of many of these works (such as pastels and chalk drawings) most of them are exhibited only rarely. From Fragonard and Degas to the fashion designs of Elsa Schiaparelli, there's a vast scope to this department.

Bijoux

The Musée des Arts Decoratifs has the largest jewelry collection in France, more than four thousand pieces from antiquity to the present day. Here you can see all types of jewelry, from tiaras to rings through belt buckles and everything in between.

Jouets

Jouets

It's impossible not to love a museum with such a collection of toys, some dating back to the French Revolution. And it's toys of all kinds including boats, sailboats and submarines; building sets; video games; 2,100 dolls and accessories; 2,423 animals. It's where Barbie meets Le Petit Prince.

Mode / Textile

150,000 works make up this department — dresses & fashion, textiles & accessories, photographs & graphics. The names of the greatest fashion designers are gathered here, from Jeanne Lanvin to Coco Chanel, from Madeleine Vionnet to Christian Lacroix, from Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent.

Because of the fragile nature of the textiles, there are no permanent displays, but there are two special exhibitions annually. A recent show to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the house of Christian Dior — Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve — was a sold-out affair.

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Musée des Arts Decoratifs – Resources

Italian Renaissance

  • 107-111 Rue de Rivoli, part of the Louvre Palace complex
  • 1st Arrondissement
  • Metro – Tuileries or Palais-Royal-Musée-du-Louvre
  • Tuesday to Sunday, 11 AM to 6 PM
  • Thursday, 11 AM to 9 PM (late hours for special exhibitions only)
  • Closed Mondays, December 25, January 1, May 1
  • Website

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