The Museum of Hunting and Nature

In the refurbished Hotel de Guenegaud, an elegant stone building with a cobbled courtyard and sweeping staircases that is tucked quietly into the Rue des Archives, lies the charming (-ly bizarre) Musee de la Chasse et la Nature—an ambling assemblage of paintings, taxidermy, sculpture, and text amassed as an homage to sport hunting.

Weaving from the ground floor up, the collection navigates first through a series of dimly-lit salons (seemingly once swarming with the cronies of the zany, moustache-d, pipe-smoking chap who surely fathered the museum) in which it is difficult to positively identify, among the motley furnishings, which are the intentional and which are the incidental objects. Intermingled are rugs, tapestries, lavish paintings of men with their hounds, stuffed rodents; a taxidermy coyote rests beneath the arm of an antique settee like a garish end table, a phantasmatic owl-feather-and-face montage covers the whole of the ceiling of one room in dizzying 3-D, and apparently-custom-made cabinets house tributes to particular species, in the form of poetry and prose, art, feces (well-preserved or replicated remains a mystery), track imprints, and even the occasional body part.

The museum culminates in its Salle des Trophées (curiously categorized as of the part of the collection that honors animals rather than hunting), a grand room populated with the heads (mostly) of an astounding array of exotic animals, largely bequeathed to the museum—per the available ledger—by dukes and princes with the penchant, and, incidentally, incredibly winding surnames. Also showcased in the Salle are remarkably inlaid and emblazoned antique firearms, displayed firstly, it seems, as beautiful and historical objects— avoiding the glaring juxtaposition with an old-school, if not strangely admirable, nonchalance.

The whole of the museum reads much like this, then: deeply earnest, and thus decidedly (and deliciously) bereft of the necessary irony, and yet peculiarly playful—a rigged boar’s head chants ominously above the doorway in the Salle, a taxidermy bird dons a prosthetic duck bill in its case, and a man in a serious photo mural wears a somber expression and a  “What mood are you in?” t-shirt. It’s all a bit Most-Dangerous-Game-meets-Jumanji, and it’s one of my favorite strange places.

If animal heads and/or the lingering sense that someone has just played a monumental trick on you are not as much your thing, the gorgeous, 17th century building and courtyard are both quite worth a gander (pun sorely intended).

Admission to the museum is about €7; hours are 11 to 6, Tuesday through Sunday.

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  1. […] laundromats are beautiful? This ivy drenched dry cleaner is located just down the street from the Museum of Hunting and Nature and just around the corner from the Marché des Enfants Rouges (FYI Stay tuned for our upcoming […]

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