You’ve done the Louvre. You spent the better part of a day in this venerable institution walking the well-worn path from the Venus de Milo to Winged Victory and you even pushed your way past the crowds to stand nose-to-nose with the Mona Lisa so you could share conspiratorial smiles. You easily lost half an hour trying to figure out who’s who in the gigantic painting of the coronation of Napoleon and you’re a little embarrassed to admit it, but after 3 hours in the world’s greatest art museum its sheer size and the weight of the collection has begun to weigh on you. Didn’t the tour guide say that if you took 15 seconds to view every painting in the Louvre that you’d be stuck in there for years?
You start shifting your body weight from foot to foot, trying to ease the pressure your heeled sandals are putting on the balls of your feet while you look longingly at the Portrait of Madame Récamier. Glancing surreptitiously around to see if the guards are watching, you contemplate mimicking her pose on the nearest bench, thinking you might just get away with it if you claim to be a performance artist. “Récamier, Récamier…” you repeat in your mind, suddenly making the link to that charming antique French sofa you adore. Eureka… the récamier must have been named after Madame. Who knew? Hmmm… rumor has it the Louvre has an enormous collection of antique furniture. Perhaps you should idle over there to educate your eye to prepare for going to the famed flea market – les puces de Paris – over the weekend. Consulting your Plan de Louvre, you sigh out loud… what you’d really like is a good old-fashioned cultural dose of retail therapy. Going to view antique furniture at the Louvre is sort of like taking a kid into a toy store and saying “Look, but don’t touch.”
Louvre des Antiquaires
Lucky for you, there’s another Louvre – the Louvre des Antiquaires. And at this one, everything IS for sale! Located just across the street from the Musée du Louvre at the Place du Palais Royal, the Louvre des Antiquaires hosts nearly 250 galleries specializing in everything from classical antiquities to chic vintage items from the 1960s, all housed in a 19th-century building that’s worth a tour in its own right.
While changing the face of Paris with his buddy Haussmann, Napoleon III commissioned this building to be the first luxury hotel in Paris to house important guests during the Universal Exhibition of 1855. While the hotel would tower on the top floors, the building was organized in typical Haussmannian fashion with the ground floor being devoted for store keepers. Within a few years’ time, it became very clear that the shops were the main attraction and the hotel was wisely relocated into a building on the other side of the square so serious shoppers could overtake this front building, allowing the Grands Magasins du Louvre department store to open – much to the delight of turn-of-the-century Parisians and tourists alike.
By the 1970s the Grands Magasins du Louvre were in a sorry state of disrepair and needed a little bit of Haussmannian magic to revive them to their former glory. A British investor stepped in, playing the role of fairy godmother, and after extensive renovations a new kind of shopping mall entered the building – the Louvre des Antiquaires.
Today, the Louvre des Antiquaires houses more than 250 antique, art and jewelry shops selling the types of art and antiquities you can only dream about while touring The Museum across the Rue de Rivoli. And while the antique galleries offer precious, museum-quality objects for the experienced collector, they don’t limit themselves to the “I-own-my-own-island-and-travel-the-world-in-a-private-jet” type of clientele one might expect from the address. The Louvre des Antiquaires prides themselves on having something for everyone, offering objets d’art priced for impulse purchases and bargain hunters to boot.
While I use to call the Louvre des Antiquaires the other Louvre, I’ve begun to think of it as the other way around. For the Louvre des Antiquaires is like the Louvre itself – a cultural treasure trove – but better because everything is for sale! Each year more than 500,000 shoppers pass those giant stone lions at the main entrance, a relic left over from its department store days, saying “Forget the Museum Gift Shop with its t-shirts and plaster replicas of the Venus de Milo, I want to buy the real thing at Le Louvre des Antiquaires! I’m taking a piece of Parisian history home with me to place on my mantle!”
Now that’s what I call a souvenir.
Le Louvre des Antiquaires
2, place du Palais Royal, Paris 1st
Métro: Louvre-Palais Royal
Map and complete directions
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 7pm (Closed on Sundays in July and August)
Toma Clark Haines is The Antiques Diva™ Chief Executive Diva of The Antiques Diva & Co® European Shopping Tours offering antique shopping tours in France, England, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Please click on her name to read her professional profile and more of her stories published in BonjourParis. BonjourParis Premium Members will receive a 10% discount with the Antiques Diva™ Tours.
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By Toma Haines
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