Every seeker of the unusual loves a good taxidermy museum, and there are plenty of places in Paris that you can admire such zoological displays. Despite the wide variety Paris has to offer, none of them host a more theatrical and astonishing display than the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature.
Installed in two 18th century private mansions by wealthy industrialists François and Jacqueline Sommer, the museum advocates for respectful hunting practices, wildlife preservation, and ecological consciousness.
Since 1964, this “Grand Siècle” type museum not only takes a pedagogic and esthetical approach to animal anatomy as well as hunting techniques and devices, but highlights all of the above in very elegant way. The underlying intimacy that once linked together mankind and his environment, a precious relationship that surrounded the most archaic ritual — taking the life of an animal, sometimes at your own risk, to keep your community alive.
Curated with a nod to the wunderkammers of old, each room of the recently renovated museum now features a wooden cabinet dedicated to a different hunted animal. Concealed in the cabinet drawers are bronze casts of the animal's footprints and turds, depictions of the animal in its natural habitat, and a poem as a tribute to the animal. There's even a room devoted to the mythical unicorn. An extraordinary arched ceiling – made out of the feathers and heads of five owls – hanging over visitors' heads in a room on the museum's second floor was made by Jan Fabre, one of the many contemporary artists to have work in the space. Mark Dion also has created a hunting lodge installation, and ceramics by Jeff Koons can be found in the Dog Salon.
Guided through centuries of visual art, through ancient eras where animals where gods in their allegoric forms, to companions of saints, and finally as taxidermied relics of science the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature serves as a symbolic bestiary reminding the viewer that nature‘s wonder is a splendid, mysterious, and sometimes frightening entity.
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