Paris is celebrating Chopin's anniversary. At la Musée de la Vie Romantique, yes the Romantic museum - a mansion nestled in the 9th arrondissement behind the street in a courtyard with a charming garden filled with blooming purple flowers and tea service, you find Chopin's Pleyel piano, paintings from Delacroix with his famous portrait of a haunted, ill almost tormented Chopin, pastoral scenes of Corot and studies of the 19th century salons where Chopin performed. Chopin only performed publicly 17 times in his lifetime, the rest spent composing, conducting affairs and his most famous fraught one with George Sand. The museum contains a permanent exhibition of George Sand, locks of her hair, painting of her and her children, her jewelry, few of her writings oddly enough, but much of her unconventional life. The exhibition titled La Note Blue - focuses on the tie-in of music and art of that time and how Chopin, Lizst - his rival - furthered music and the piano manufacturers Pleyel - Chopin's piano of choice - and Erard - the piano Lizst played. Lizst was a modern 'promoter' for Erard - a 19th century marketer. Chopin who in his life, portrayed often as a frail, sensitive, artiste never achieved the notoriety of Lizst. George Sand ended their eight year affair when she thought he'd made a move on her daughter Solange. We can see the plaster cast of Chopin's hand "with his velvet fingers" his lover George Sand called them, but not his death mask. At Chopin's death in 1849, penniless and tubercular in a garret in the Place Vendome, now commemorated by a plaque, he was an outcast from the aristocratic Polish society in Paris he'd played for.
Why didn't la Vie romantique have the death mask from the Polish library on the Ile Saint Louis where I've viewed it? According to the Polish archivist I spoke to researching Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis, Sand insisted on Chopin's death mask and paid for it. The first mask, so revealing his shrunken cheekbones horrified her, that she insisted and paid for another. Sand, his estranged lover, paid for the funeral...where were the Polish aristo's like the Princess Czartoryska who summoned Chopin to play in the salon of Hotel Lambert? To me, this exhibit, organized by the French doesn't come close to the Polish Library. The Polish Library contains a salon of Fryderyk Chopin commemorating him the with drawings and portraits of the composer and George Sand, prints and pictures from the period, an armchair from his last apartment at Place Vendôme, musical scores, letters and mementoes related to Chopin's death including his death mask a cast of his hand and a portrait of Chopin on his death bed. Much more authentic and heart felt
ALERT! Moving on to the law that will make many of us 'criminals' like this woman, We know how clothes are very important to the French. There's a proposed new law forbidding the wearing of the burqa. But this isn't the first instance of the French government legislating what women can or cannot wear. In fact, it is currently illegal for women to wear trousers in France without the permission of the prefecture de police, according to a law passed by the Revolutionary government, the loi du 26 brumaire an VIII (1899). Later amendments (in 1892 and 1909) made exceptions if the lady in question was “holding a bicycle by the handlebars or the reins of a horse.” This law is still on the books, even though women and men were supposedly given equal rights by the Constitution of 1946, so all of you women who go about in trousers without police authorization, a bicycle or a horse are nothing but common criminals and are subject to arrest. Like my friend Jo in Cafe de la Fontaine above and below on the Metro platform Dress carefully meanwhile I'm off to sample this Cara - Tuesday