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History of the Hôtel de la Marine

La place de Louis XV, vers 1791. Reproduction de la gravure de Taraval

Parisians are familiar with this monument whose facade adorns the northeastern part of the Place de la Concorde. Often, they know the name. But perhaps a little less the history. We invite you to discover the secrets of the Hotel de la Marine, emblematic place of Paris but also great witness of the history of France.

The choice of the place of the Concorde

The Place Louis XV, today's Place de la Concorde, owes its creation to the will of the City of Paris to build a statue in honor of King Louis XV in 1748. To highlight this equestrian statue commissioned to Edmé Bouchardon, the idea of a square to the glory of the king, based on the model of the Place Vendôme and the Place des Vosges, was born.

After much hesitation, King Louis XV gave a site that belonged to him in the west of the city, near the Tuileries garden.
An architectural competition was then launched for the development of this square. Nineteen proposals are deposited but none satisfies the king. It is the same of the second organized competition.

After five years of debates, it is Ange-Jacques Gabriel, First architect of the King, who carries out a synthesis of the various projects to create the final plans of the future place Louis XV.

The statue of the king will be in the center of a square formed of dry ditch gardens bordered by balustrades. The sculpture of the monarch represents him in the Roman style, i.e. riding without a saddle and without stirrups. To the south of the square, the Seine. To the north, two twin palaces with monumental classical facades on both sides of the rue Royale. To the west, the square opens onto the Champs-Elysées and the queen's court.

With the fall of the monarchy, this place "Louis XV" will change name to become "place of the Revolution" then "place of the Concorde" from 1795.

Vue de la place Louis XV en direction du jardin des Tuileries
Vue de la place Louis XV en direction du jardin des Tuileries

© Reproduction Benjamin Gavaudo / CMN

The installation of the Garde-Meuble of the Crown

After the construction of the plans and the launching of the works of development of the place, it is time to find an affectation for the two palaces situated in the north.

In 1765, it was decided to install the Garde-Meuble royal, the institution in charge of the king's furniture, in the easternmost palace (between the present rue Royale and rue Saint-Florentin), the future Hôtel de la Marine. Initially, the Garde-Meuble was supposed to occupy only a part of the building, but in 1767 it finally took over the whole place.

Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu, intendant at the head of the Garde-Meuble, took advantage of the opportunity to have the Hôtel fitted out to fully meet the needs of his administration: storage areas, workshops, staff apartments, exhibition galleries, and a living space with its chapel... For nearly twenty-five years, the Garde-Meuble and its steward, Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu and later Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville d'Avray, occupied the palace.

The forerunner of the Mobilier National, this institution was in charge of the fitting out of the royal residences and the maintenance of their furniture: Versailles, but also Compiègne, Fontainebleau, Marly, Choisy, Trianon, Rambouillet, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Montreuil.

The institution is responsible for the selection, purchase and maintenance of the king's furniture, ranging from beds to simple chairs. It is also in charge of the conservation of the royal collections of arms and armor, fabrics and hangings, vases of hard stones, bronzes and finally the Crown's diamonds, but also the kitchenware and household linen!

Portrait de Pierre-Élisabeth de Fontanieu
Portrait de Pierre-Élisabeth de Fontanieu

© Paris Musées / Musée Carnavalet - Histoire de Paris

During the Revolution

The French Revolution, which broke out in 1789, changed forever the history of this palace of the place Louis XV. The days of the Garde-Meuble, symbol of the administration and the royal pomp, are counted.

Two events mark the history of the place.

On July 13, 1789, the revolutionaries seized the weapons displayed in the armory. The next day, they went to get ammunition from... the Bastille. The story goes that the first shots against the Bastille were fired by cannons mounted on silver damascene mounts given by the King of Siam to Louis XIV in 1684, taken the day before from the royal collections of the Garde-Meuble.

On September 16, 1792, the Crown jewels were stolen from the Hôtel de la Marine. During the night, about forty people entered the salon where the jewels were displayed, and stole a loot of nearly 30 million francs.

A symbol of the Ancien Régime, the Garde-Meuble was simply abolished during the Revolution. Some of the furniture and art objects were then sold at auction or burned, notably to recover the precious metals.

In 1800, the institution was recreated under the name of Garde-Meuble des Consuls. It then became the Imperial Furniture and finally the National Furniture in 1870. The Mobilier National is still in charge of the furniture of the different national institutions such as the Elysée.

Aperçu de l'escalier d'honneur depuis la salle à manger d'honneur
Aperçu de l'escalier d'honneur depuis la salle à manger d'honneur

© Ambroise Tézenas / Centre des monuments nationaux

The seat of the Ministry of the Navy during 226 years

At the beginning of the Revolution, King Louis XVI left Versailles for Paris. All the administrations of the State present in Versailles must thus return to the capital. But a major obstacle arose: where to install them? The Ministry of the Navy, headed by the Count of La Luzerne and Jean-Baptiste Berthier, moved into the palace housing the Garde-Meuble in 1789.

At first, the Navy occupied spaces on the second floor and the west side of the second floor. It would take less than 10 years before it could occupy the entire building. This marked the beginning of two centuries of the administration's presence in this palace, which would henceforth be known as the Hôtel de la Marine. The Ministry of the Navy will not leave the building until 2015.

From the office of the Chief of Staff to the gallery of the great French naval prefectures, the Navy will remodel the place according to its needs: division of spaces to increase the size of the offices, arrangements related to technological developments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (electricity, telephone, elevators ...) but also decorations such as portraits of the great sailors of the Royal Navy.

When the Navy left, the management of the building was given to the Centre des monuments nationaux. A large-scale restoration was undertaken to open the monument to the public and to restore the apartments of the stewards of the Royal Furniture Guard to their 18th century splendor.

Portraits de Tourville et Duguay-Trouin
Portraits de Tourville et Duguay-Trouin

© H. Lewandowski / Centre des monuments nationaux

2020, a new era for the Hôtel de la Marine

Since the departure of the Ministry of the Navy in 2015, the Hôtel de la Marine has been entrusted to the Centre des monuments nationaux. Responsible for highlighting this exceptional heritage, the CMN has conducted a large-scale restoration of the entire monument between 2017 and 2021 .

Its architecture, but also its painted decorations, furniture and art objects of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries present to the public the close link between decorative art, art of entertaining, craftsmanship, French excellence and expression of power.

Since 2017, restoration campaigns have brought to light some real marvels, including the rediscovery of the original decor of the Intendant's apartments as they were at the end of the 18th century.

Come and discover the Hôtel de la Marine and its different tour routes!

Façade de l'Hôtel de la Marine
Façade de l'Hôtel de la Marine

© Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux

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