A great staircase often seems to tie all parts of a building together. The care and craftsmanship that follows a brilliant design can take your breath away (just as much as the ascent in some cases). Paris (and the surrounds) certainly can boast some of the very finest.
Perhaps because a staircase can be viewed from so many angles, you can’t help but admire the insight and imagination of the architect who designed it.
But there’s another aspect. Don’t you ever look at some beautiful, historic stairway and think of the well known figures from the past who must have walked up and down it in all their finery in centuries past?
Let’s show you just a few. There are of course many, many more that are just as beautiful and worthy of study, but these are some of the finest we have seen.
This is the main staircase of the Hôtel Biron, built in the 1720s and opened as the Musée Rodin in 1916, the year before the great sculptor’s death.
You can almost see the long-bearded figure of Auguste Rodin making his way up and down these stairs during his later years when this building was first his studio and workshop, and then his home as well.
Rodin occupied part of the building from 1908 and later all of the building, where he lived from 1911 until his death in 1917. He arranged to leave his entire body of work as well as his art collection to the State on condition that he be allowed to live and work in the Hôtel Biron until his death and that it then be opened and maintained as the Musée Rodin. That is exactly what happened.
The museum was fully renovated and restored beginning in 2012 and completed for Rodin’s 175th birthday in 2015. It is one of Paris’s most beautiful museums: the building, the grounds famous for their rose garden, and the extraordinary body of work it houses, including Rodin’s most famous works as well as hundreds of lesser-known pieces, as well as paintings and other works of art from Rodin’s own extensive collection.
Château de Versailles
Versailles is one of the world’s most famous and visited palaces. Not surprisingly it also has some of the most beautiful staircases to be found anywhere.
The staircase on the left above is the Questel Staircase, the one on the right, Le Petit Trianon Staircase. They are both incomparably stately, elegant and beautiful. Again one can almost see Louis XV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and so many other the famous figures from history making their way up and down these stairs.
Le Petit Trianon, a new Chateau built by Louis XV in the middle of his gardens, was completed in 1768. Louis XV died in 1774, leaving the throne to Louis XVI and his bride, Marie Antoinette. Louis XVI gave the Petit Trianon estate to his young wife who soon redecorated it in her own style. (Trianon is the name of a hamlet that existed earlier on the site.) The Questel staircase was named after the Palace architect, Charles-Auguste Questel who designed it after his appointment to this position in 1849.
Louvre, Petit Palais
Originally part of the ceremonial apartments of the Secretary of State, the Escalier du Ministre grand staircase at the Louvre leads up to the Napoleon III Private Apartments (left).
Moving on to another palace, the staircase on the right is one of the spiral staircases in the Petit Palais, which was built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. It is a fabulous art museum, well worth visiting for the building alone, let alone the art it contains. One of the Petit Palais’ main features is its spiral staircases created by Charles Girault who also personally designed the beautiful, delicate, organic wrought iron railing.
Jacquemart-André Museum, Château de Villandry
Above left is the Grand Staircase at the Jacquemart-André Museum on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. It leads up from the Winter Garden to the Venetian Gallery upstairs featuring Tiepolo’s fresco. The staircase on the right is not exactly Paris, but close enough. The Château de Villandry is a day trip from Paris and while its gardens are perhaps its biggest attraction, the inside of the Château has some real gems.
We could go on, but you get the idea. There are some wonderful staircases in and around Paris, which are architectural marvels and are also historically rich.
You will see them as you go to some of the usual places that one must visit when in Paris. It’s well worth spending some time examining them and, if you are like us, drifting in time and daydreaming about the people, some famous, some unknown, who have ascended and descended these very staircases over the centuries.
We highly recommend a visit to all of these staircases. In the meantime, until you can make the trip, you will find prints and canvases of many of the above images in our shop. The clue is that if you can click on the image, it will take you to the listing. Many of these also look very striking in black and white, and you will find black and white versions of several in the shop as well. If you would like a print or canvas of any images that are not listed in our shop, please contact us.