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Art & History

In the footsteps of aristocrats at Hôtel de Lauzun in Paris

The 17th-century private mansion can still be unlocked for visits, and Ingrid Held holds the key.

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From the street, it looks like almost any other building on Paris’s luxurious Île Saint-Louis. There’s a rather small wooden door at street level leading to an interior courtyard, large double windows fronting plush curtains and a small front-facing balcony with highlights of gold wrapping around the wrought-iron bars.

Inside, however, it’s a gilded palace, featuring period paintings on the ceilings, gold-leaf on the walls and winding tile staircases. Although Louis XIV never lived here, the decorations are a reminder of the era when he was the king of France.

“It has survived time,” said Ingrid Held, our storyteller for this new Secret Journey. “It’s a memory of the way of life, the codes of living, of the elite of the 17th and 18th centuries.”

The Hôtel de Lauzun, built by nobleman Charles Gruyn des Bordes in the late 17th century, was later inhabited by Antoine Nompar de Caumont, the Duke of Lauzun, who gave it the luxurious finishes that shine to this day. The paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the hotel’s interior were inspired by Italian Renaissance artwork. Ingrid reminds us that it is through this artwork and the motifs it invokes that the hotel “links the present to the roots of ancient civilization.” 

“This decor is not only luxurious,” she said. “It’s very meaningful.” 

Today’s splendor didn’t always prevail, however. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the mansion was rented out to artists, including the poet Charles Baudelaire. The City of Paris bought it in 1928 and restored the interior with the intention of invoking its original style.

Ingrid is glad to share the stories behind this seldom-seen palace with guests of Secret Journeys who want to experience an authentic chapter of Paris history.

Today, Ingrid says, the building’s memory must be preserved. “This heritage is fragile, even if it has been wonderfully restored,” she said. “It will continue to live only if citizens are aware that it has to be protected.”

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