CHOPIN IN THE CITY OF LIGHT AND LOVE
The Salon Chopin in Paris
Frédéric Chopin in the collections of the Polish Historical and Literary Society at the Polish Library in Paris.
By Xavier Deryng
Text translated by Louisa Burnett Hall
Frédéric Chopin was one of the very first members of the Polish Literary Society, which contributed to the creation of the Polish Historical and Literary Society. This institution grouped together prominent personalities of the Great Emigration in Paris after the failure of the November Uprising of 1830-31. Like its first president, Prince Adam Czartoryski who had acquired the Hôtel Lambert, the Society was installed in 1854 in another 17th century town house, at 6 quai d’Orléans.
Since this time the Île Saint Louis has been a Polish stronghold in Paris. 6 quai d’Orléans is home to not only the Polish Library, but also the Adam Mickiewicz Museum, the Boleslas Biegas Museum and the Salon Chopin, the only permanent exhibition space dedicated to the Polish musician, who had spent half of his life in Paris.
The visitor can discover touching mementos of the Polish composer, his last armchair from the Place Vendôme where he died on 17th October 1849, his death mask by Auguste Clesinger and also a sculpture cast of the medallion that embellishes his tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
The Salon was reconstructed from a watercolour painted by Teofil Kwiatkowski, destroyed during the second world war, with elements of the decor from the Louis Phillippe era and in particular, a genuine Ignace Pleyel piano made in 1845.
There are many works displayed on the walls and in the cabinets by this artist, who we may well consider as Chopin’s accredited painter: Chopin’s Polonaise danced in the Gardens of the Hôtel Lambert and Chopin on his Death Bed, an original watercolour, of which numerous copies have been made.
We can admire an oval-shaped portrait of Georges Sand, also by Théophile Kwiatkowski, and miniatures of those close to Chopin, in particular one dedicated to Marceline Czartoryska who was one of his best students. Among the portraits of Chopin, one by Giuseppe Fagnani, bequeathed by Léon Kostecki, painted in Nohant in 1844, has a privileged position in the composer’s iconography: smartly coiffed, he looks like the perfect dandy, quite the opposite to the tousled hair in the famous painting by Eugène Delacroix at the Louvre Museum.
Sculpture has not been forgotten in the Salon, with portrait busts by François Black, Pierre Félix Fix-Mazeau and two famous bronze medallions by Antoine Bovy of 1837 and 1847.
The Biegas Museum, installed on the first floor of the Polish Library not far from the Salon Chopin, presents The Harp of Inspiration of 1907 that the sculptor had made for the competition for the Chopin Monument in Warsaw, won by Waclaw Szymanowski, which can be found in in the park of the Chateau Lazienski where open air recitals are held.
For conservation purposes, the original manuscripts of the mazurkas and Chopin’s letters belonging to the collections of 6 quai d’Orléans, have been replaced with facsimiles.
Société Historique et Littéraire Polonaise/Bibliothèque Polonaise de Paris
Towarzystwo Historyczno-Literackie/Biblioteka Polska w Paryżu
6, quai d’Orléans – 75004 Paris