Maxim’s has its secret museum

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Musée Maxim’s shows Pierre Cardin’s Art nouveau collections

Many old Parisians have never heard of it let alone visited it, and yet Musée Maxim’s was opened eleven years ago to house Pierre Cardin’s Art Nouveau collections. When, in 1981, the couturier bought the famous Paris restaurant and the building above it (now he owns another one next-door), he already loved art and had been buying many pieces at auction.

The famous Maxim's Sempé logo

The famous Maxim’s Sem caricature

Vases and furniture by Emile Gallé, a bed in walnut wood and its armoires made by « Au Confortable » for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, Tiffany lamps, chairs and a desk by Majorelle, furniture by Guimard, are all part of the seven room museum, situated on the third floor above the restaurant. The mixture of irises, water lilies, leaves in all shapes  and naked women, show how important nature and love was for these decorators and the sensuousness of the pieces are a good reminder of what happened in the restaurant below.

Beds are an important part of the museum's decor

Beds are an important part of the museum’s decor

A scene from « Midgnight in Paris » was shot there, for Woody Allen was an habitué at dinner in the 80’s. There are two Gaudi couches covered in William Morris fabric, a charming bronze suspension with storks made in Lunéville and many “barbotines” (majolica) in all colors. On a coiffeuse, the silver brushes and combs belonged to Sarah Bernhardt.

Pierre-André Hélène, the curator, was trained as an actor and is un to follow around.

Pierre-André Hélène, the curator, was trained as an actor and is great fun to follow around.

The visit starts in the restaurant where Pierre-André Hélène, the curator, tells us about Maxime Gaillard, first owner of the bistrot “Maxime et Georges”, and  of Eugène Cornuchet, the second owner, who had started there as a waiter. He had the brilliant idea of commissioning today’s decor from Louis Marnez in 1899, in preparation for the great Universal exhibition of 1900.

Arts and craft furniture and barbotines

Arts and craft furniture and barbotines

The place was launched by a courtesan, Irma de Montigny, who brought all her girlfriends after a day at the races for Prix de Diane. La Belle Otero, Emilienne d’Alençon, Liane de Pougy, were the queens of the place and managed for most of them to marry in the society. Famous visitors such as Sacha Guitry and Onassis, post war actors and members of the Jet Set, came to Maxim’s constantly until the 90’s… And I remember my mother telling me when I was a little girl that she had never been to Maxim’s for only kept women did…

On the coiffeuse, Sarah Bernhardts's silver brushes

On the coiffeuse, Sarah Bernhards’s silver brushes

Above the restaurant, is the “hôtel particular” built by genius visionary Etienne- Louis Boullée in 1775, in neoclassic style like the rest of the rue Royale. A beautiful perspective of mirrors can still be seen in the “boiseries” lined living room, on the second floor.

IN the XVIII th century salon, mirrors play with wood decoration

The mirrors in  the XVIII th century salon,

There is also a  little theatre, where plays by Pierre-André Hélène are regularly staged, and on the 12th of November, opens a new exhibition devoted to Marlène Dietrich.

Yet another reason to go to Maxim’s!

(3 rue Royale, visits every day except Monday and Tuesday at 2 pm in English and at 3.15 pm in French, 20€)

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