The Hôtel Biron is the beautiful 18th-century mansion that houses the Musée Rodin in Paris.  The museum opened its doors in 1919, two years after Auguste Rodin died.  In 1753, the mansion, built between 1728 and 1730, was sold to Maréchal de Biron, who gave it its present name.   

In 1820, the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus became the owners of the property.  Its vocation was to educate the young girls of high society.  The mansion was stripped of all its embellishments and the gardens were allowed to grow wild.  The Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was dissolved in July, 1904, and the sisters were evicted. While awaiting a buyer, the Hôtel Biron was rented out to artists.  Its illustrious tenants included Isadora Duncan and Henri Matisse.  When the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who was Rodin's secretary, wrote to him about the mansion and abandoned gardens, Rodin rented four of the mansion's rooms in October of 1908 as his studio; by 1911, Rodin occupied the entire mansion.
Rodin loved the tangle of plants.  In 1908, Rodin first started placing some of his sculptures in the overgrown garden in addition to some of the ancient works of art from Egypt, Greece and Rome that he began collecting in the early 1890s. 

“Nature and Antiquity are the two great sources of life for an artist. In any event, Antiquity implies nature. It is its truth and its smile.”    Auguste Rodin (taken from www.musee-rodin.fr)

In 1910, the government of France purchased the property, initially to house the Department of Civil Buildings.  However, Rodin successfully negotiated with the French government; he would donate all his works to France under the stipulation that the French government keep the collection at Hôtel Biron:

“I give the State all my works in plaster, marble, bronze and stone, and my drawings, as well as the collection of antiquities that I had such pleasure in assembling for the education and training of artists and workers. And I ask the State to keep all these collections in the Hôtel Biron, which will be the Musée Rodin, reserving the right to reside there all my life.”   

Auguste Rodin - Correspondence of Rodin, volume III, 1908-1912, letter no. 103 to Paul Escudier, late 1909  (taken from www.musee-rodin.fr)

In 1916 the French legislature accepted Rodin's gift; the Musée Rodin opened its doors on August 4, 1919.

The first bronzes were placed in the gardens before World War I.   The large-scale Le Penseur (The Thinker) was transferred with its pedestal to the museum in 1922.  This image of a man lost in thought has become one of the most celebrated sculptures ever known.

The Thinker was eventually accompanied by an enlargement of Ugolino, set in the middle of the ornamental pool in 1927...

then by Les Bourgeois de Calais (Burgers of Calais) in 1937...

The statue of Balzac, an old bronze cast before 1936, was installed much later.  When the statue was originally unveiled, the crowd booed, a fitting tribute to the defiant writer.

In the 1993 restoration of the garden, which is spread over an area of three hectares, the landscape architect decided to keep the classical layout of the garden.  A large number of bronze sculptures are displayed throughout in the renovated gardens.   

Meditation with Arms

Fallen Caryatid with Urn


The Three Shades (the souls of the damned): a larger version of what sits on top of The Gates of Hell.

The Shade: a sculpture in which Rodin depicted most fully the lessons he had learned from the study of the works of Michelangelo during his visits to Italy.

Many visitors to Paris miss this wonderful museum dedicated to the works of one of the most talented sculptors in history.  They concentrate on Musée d'Orsay or the Musée du Louvre.  Even if you don't walk through the mansion, take a stroll through the gardens where many of Rodin's most important works are displayed among some of most beautiful flowers you will see in Paris.
Musée Rodin has partially reopened after being closed for the last three months.  A temporary presentation of the permanent collection called Masterpieces on the Move shows the most important works by Rodin and Camille Claudel in the east wing of the museum.  The west wing of the museum is closed until April, 2013.

Musée Rodin
79 Rue du Varenne, 75007 Paris 

Phone: +33 (0)1 44 18 61 10
Fax:     +33 (0)1 44 18 61 30 

Metro: Varenne (Line 13) or Invalides (Line 13, Line 8)
R.E.R:  Invalides (line C)
Bus:    69, 82, 87, 92

  • Admission fee is €6.00
  • Admission fee with temporary exhibit is €9.00
  • Admission fee for the gardens is €1.00
  • TIP: You should use your Paris Museum Pass.
  • Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-5:45 (last ticket sold 5:15).
  • Beginning April 3, 2012 Open Wednesday until 8:45. 
  • Closed Mondays.
  • Closed January 1, May 1 and December 25.

For more information visit the website: http://www.musee-rodin.fr/

NOTE: All photos in this post were taken by me during my visit in May, 2006.

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