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Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature

News_7598_0 Text: Chris Holt
Photo: Karen Knorr

Paris is home to dozens of museums catering to all tastes and interests. Those passionate about hunting and nature should most definitely visit the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in the Marais. The museum first opened in 1967 as part of a foundation created by François and Jacqueline Sommer. Since 2007 it has been housed at L’hôtel de Mongelas, which the foundation acquired in 2002 and completely renovated. The space is worth mentioning for its rich woodwork, as well as the beautiful  bronze  details; banisters, chandeliers and light fixtures to resemble vines and tree branches.

Like many avid hunters, François Sommer was a passionate conservationist who believed that hunting must be regulated to help preserve nature. With this mission in mind, the museum is a tribute to wildlife, nature and hunting vis-à-vis tapestries, paintings, sculptures and taxidermy. The art depicts scenes of hunting on the countryside, game animals, and almost reverential portraits and busts of hunting dogs, complete their names. The museum also has an impressive collection of antique hunting guns, some of which were owned by famous Frenchmen such as Napoleon. Many are works of art in  themselves, embossed with intricate designs and embedded with ivory and even gold.

The taxidermy collection is perhaps the most notable if only because it’s impossible to miss. The many fully-stuffed animals include leopards, a male lion, a tiger, and an upright polar bear standing menacingly at least 2.5 meters high. Anyone with a taxidermy phobia should NOT go to this museum. In one room the entire top third of the wall is dedicated to mounted heads of game animals. The display is a bit surreal and even a little creepy, but one cannot help marvel at the massive size of rhinoceros, bison, water buffalo and other animals. Some will inevitably find hunting and natural preservation to be incongruous, but the museum’s collection cannot be viewed without appreciating the sincerity of the foundation’s efforts toward conservation.

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
62, rue des Archives
75003 Paris

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I walked by this museum, and though it was closed, I wondered at its contents. This beautiful and arresting photo image, and this lovely note on the museum has confirmed my curiosity, as it seems to be a fascinating exploration of this most noble and venerated pass time, the hunt. France's venerable institution, La Chasse, is still a vital part of country life. With an eye to preservation, this society is indeed, worth a look.

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