Musée de Cluny — musée national du Moyen Âge Paris

The day before I went to the Louvre, I visited Musée de Cluny: musée national du Moyen Âge Paris, cos this is where the mediæval art was. Turns out it was also in the Louvre, but I’m a little slow sometimes. And had I known what to expect in the latter would have probably given Musée de Cluny a miss. It must be hard to compete with that behemoth in Paris for any museum, that and Pompidou.

By comparison, it’s similar to Berlin’s Märkisches Museum, or the mediæval part of Stockholm’s Historiska museet. The centrepiece is undoubtably the six tapestries of La Dame à la licorne, but there’s also pretty good collections of tapestries, stained glass, stone sculpture, Islamic and Islamic-influenced ceramics, enamelled metalwork, gravestones, and the civic architecture of the 14th century building itself. From the point of photographing and in some cases adequately viewing, it was all a bit patchy, with often crappy light, or badly positioned works. I’m talking about the gravestones specifically here, massive stone objects mounted in a narrow corridor so you could never really see them properly. Contra that, the stone heads from Notre-Dame are displayed in a section that was far better organised, possibly more recently updated. So the photos aren’t representation of the entirely of the collection, mostly what I could photograph easily—there’s a complete absence then of the enamel pieces, ceramics, gravestones, and smaller statues mounted behind glass. I’m also not going to recount every work in detail.

In the first room, the retable Scènes l’Enfance et de la Passion du Christ, tapestry Tenture des Arts libéraux: L’Arithmétique, and stone sculptures Sainte Barbe, Saint Eustache au milieu du Nil, and Annonciation are varying degress of spectacular. The stonework most of all, and of those Annonciation and Saint Eustache, in completely different styles are glorious pieces of art.

Later, there’s a stained glass piece of Saint Maurice. Which is kinda confusing because there’s a French Maurice Duault, who’s known as Maurice de Carnoët, and saint Maurice. And given the date of this piece, it’s far into the period of the Madgeburgian St Maurice, but this one’s not holding his usual, recognisable standard, but his headpiece is completely different to the other saints, so I have no idea. I did some poking around the internet and it could be the Saint Maurice, seeing a lot of French representations I saw are of the blonde haired, fair skinned type, which this one may be based on the similarities with the other three pieces of this quartet, but really, someone who knows this stuff better is needed to explain what this piece is and who this St Maurice is.

This is a museum for a particular set of audiences: locals and frequent visitors to Paris who’ve seen the Louvre, specialists who want to do particular research, and people like me whose approach to museums is singularly enthusiastic. Even then, the presentation of the works—especially perennial lighting and glass problems, but also the inadequate choices of where some works are placed make it kinda hohum.