Grokking the French Revolution

louis xivLouis XIV stands alone in a barren courtyard surrounded by evidence of renovation. A stark introduction to the Musée Carnavalet is fitting preparation for the special exhibition La Révolution Française, Trésors Cachés. This rarely shown collection of over 200 pieces follows the chronology of the French Revolution as presented in three acts: The Fall of the Monarchy; Republic Jacobine; The Directory. Visitors are immediately confronted with a timeline chronicling eighteenth century France’s final decade. The cavernous, tomb-like ambiance of art museums is replaced by an almost oppressive scholarly tone, the weight of history palpable in the low lighting. Well-spaced etchings, which constitute a large part of the exhibition, create an atmosphere of a history book swollen beyond capacity, disgorging its pages to be scrutinized and contextualised. Historical artifacts are few and far between and as a result this wing of the museum will satisfy well-read Francophiles and political malcontents but leave curiosity seekers and culture hounds disappointed.

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