The Luxembourg Palace is located at 15 rue de Vaugirard in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. The Palais du Luxembourg was built as a residence for former Queen of France Marie de’ Medici in 1625. Built in the Italianate style, and inspired by Florence’s Pitti Palace. Since 1958 it has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic. The Palais du Luxembourg is also flanked by the Jardin du Luxembourg, a manicured public park that’s among the most popular in the city.
It was originally built (1615–1645) to the designs of the French architect Salomon de Brosse to be the royal residence of the regent Marie de’ Medici, mother of Louis XIII of France. The ground-plan of the Palais du Luxembourg was laid out like that of a suburban château, it had a quadrilateral layout around a rectangular courtyard with the main building and a central staircase at the bottom of the courtyard, large pavilions built out from the corners and a terraced portico and a domed entry on the street.
Even before the east wing and the entrance were completed, Marie de’ Medici commissioned Rubens to execute a number of canvases to decorate the two matching galleries that were to counterpoint one another on either side of the courtyard.
Originally created as a royal palace, it served as a prison during the French Revolution. After the Revolution it was refashioned (1799–1805) by Jean Chalgrin into a legislative building and subsequently greatly enlarged and remodeled (1835–1856) by Alphonse de Gisors.
Today, it houses the French Senate; as a result, you’ll often hear the building referred as “the Sénat.” The Senate is the upper house of the French Parliament, presided over by a president. Indirectly elected by elected officials, it represents territorial collectivities of the Republic and French citizens living abroad. The Senate enjoys less prominence than the lower house, the directly elected National Assembly; debates in the Senate tend to be less tense and generally receive less media coverage.
In front of the building lies the Senate’s garden, the Jardin du Luxembourg, open to the public. Walking tours through the Jardin du Luxembourg are an excellent way to get acquainted with the site and admire the palace’s impressive exterior.
Immediately west of the palace on the rue de Vaugirard is the Petit Luxembourg, now the residence of the Senate President; and slightly further west, the Musée du Luxembourg, in the former orangery. On the south side of the palace, the formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare green parterre of gravel and lawn populated with statues and large basins of water where children sail model boats.
Marie de’ Medici acquired in 1611 the François de Luxembourg Mansion on Rue de Vaugirard together with its large grounds outside the town walls, neighbouring a Carthusian convent. By October 1611 she was planning to have a new residence built on the site and asked her aunt, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, for the ground-plan and elevations of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence to serve for the structure of the new palace.
After she sent Louis Métezeau to Florence, Salomon de Brosse, whom she had already employed to complete her château at Monceaux-en-Brie, won a competition to become the architect. From 1799 to 1805, the architect Jean Chalgrin transformed the palace into a legislative building.
The Luxembourg Palace is more like a second home than an official urban palace. His plan is quite characteristic of French castles, like that of Verneuil-en-Halatte to which Salomon de Brosse participated. It consists of a square courtyard, the main courtyard, an entrance body surmounted by a dome, the Tournon dome, and redoubled pavilions in the main building.
He demolished the grand central staircase (escalier d’honneur), replacing it with a senate chamber on the first floor, which incorporated and destroyed Marie de Médicis’ chapel on the garden side of the corps de logis. Chalgrin also enclosed the flanking terraces, making space for a library. At the same time he created a neo-classical escalier d’honneur in the west wing, a single monumental flight enclosed by an ionic colonnade and covered with a coffered barrel vault, the construction of which resulted in the destruction of the long gallery that had formerly housed the cycle of paintings by Rubens.
Beginning in 1835, the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences (inspired by the Galerie d’Apollon of the Louvre), which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
Room of meetings, hemicycle:
When it was decided that the palace would host the Senate, Chalgrin completely rearranged the interior to make the new senatorial hall. Completed in 1807, it became a room of peers under the Restoration, was redrawn in 1836 to meet the need for expansion. The chosen architect, Alphonse de Gisors, a student of Chalgrin, advanced the facade of the building of 31 meters on the garden and arranged in space thus cleared a new hemicycle between 1836 and 1842.
The room was rebuilt after a fire in 1859 , always by Gisors. The current hemicycle was built between 1836 and 1841 on the plans of Alphonse de Gisors ( 1796-1866 ). The Conservative Senate room built by Chalgrin ( 1739-1811 ) quickly proved to be too small for the chamber of peers of the Restoration, then of the July Monarchy, whose numbers, from 1815 to 1827, increased from two hundred to nearly three hundred and eighty peers.
Added to this increase are the constraints linked to the publicity of the deliberations, hitherto secret, established by the Charter of 1830. The project for a new hemicycle presented by the architect Alphonse de Gisors, was adopted by a law of June 15, 1836. The work lasted a little over four years to be completed in 1841.
The hemicycle has two opposing hemicycles, one for the members of the Assembly and the other for the President and the secretaries of the Senate . The large hemicycle is paneled and decorated with monumental statues of two emblematic sovereigns, Charlemagne and Saint Louis, as well as, on consoles, busts of four Marshals of the Empire (Lannes, Mortier, Massena and Gouvion Saint-Cyr).
On October 28, 1859, a fire partially devastated the room and required its reconstruction. With the exception of certain paintings, the decor of the room is restored to the same. The stands were enlarged in 1879 by the creation of a second floor to accommodate nearly 500 people, while the side windows were replaced by the overhead lighting.
Behind the president’s tray, facing the seats, stand seven monumental marble statues, from left to right when we look at the president:
Turgot, controller general of the finances of Louis XVI, by Jean-François Legendre-Héral;
D’Aguesseau, Chancellor of France, by Hippolyte Maindron;
Michel de l’Hôpital, Superintendent of Finance, then Chancellor of France, by Achille Valois;
Colbert, Comptroller General of the Finances of Louis XIV, by Jean Baptiste Joseph De Bay;
Mathieu Mole, Minister of Justice under the Empire and President of the Council under the July Monarchy;
Malesherbes, support of the Encyclopedia and defender of Louis XVI during his trial;
Jean-Etienne-Marie Portalis, one of the editors of the civil code, by Joseph Marius Ramus.
At the two ends of the diameter of the hemicycle are two other statues, ordered in 1840 by the Minister of the Interior Charles de Remusat:
St. Louis, delivered in 1846 by Auguste Dumont;
Charlemagne, delivered in 1847 by Antoine Etex.
Guest Book Room:
The room of the Book of Gold is a vaulted room of the ground floor arranged in 1816 by the architect Baraguay, which was used to receive the Book of Gold of the Pairie, that is to say the name of the visitors illustrious members of the House of Peers. Baraguay reuses woodwork and decorations from other rooms, mainly the apartments of Marie de Medici at the Luxembourg Palace and Anne of Austria at the Louvre. The paintings and woodwork will be resized, redoré, restored and for some largely repainted.
The room of the guestbook brings together all that remains of the original decoration of the Palace. It is here that paintings and paneling from the former apartments of Marie de Médicis were reassembled in 1817. The set was completed even later, with painted canvases placed between the pilasters.
On the ceiling, two large paintings on wood attributed by certain authors to Jean Mosnier (1600-1656), and around, a series of panels depicting cherubs and sibyls probably made by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674).
This room, an evocation of the Palace’s golden past, takes its name from the Peerage’s Golden Book, a register recording the titles of the peers of France, previously kept in the Senate and transferred to the National Archives in 1848.
The René MONORY room (former chapel of the Chamber of Peers)
Hidden, then again highlighted, this chapel was designed by the architect Alphonse de Gisors during the campaign of 1837, during the reign of Louis-Philippe.
After the war of 1870, the chapel was abandoned. It served for a time as an archive room for the prefecture of the Seine, when the Luxembourg Palace was made available to it in 1871. After the Senate was relocated to the Luxembourg Palace in 1879, the room remained without any particular assignment until 1905.
Cloisonné for the construction of offices of the Public-Senate channel in 1982, it regains its original volume since the departure of the parliamentary channel and a restoration campaign is underway. This campaign aims to include the visit to the Heritage Days according to the wishes of the Questeurs.
It is located on the ground floor of the east wing of the main courtyard. Small dimensions (about 23 m by 6 meters). His pictorial decoration was entrusted to the painter François Bouchot, but he died before the launching of the building in 1842. It is finally decorated by murals of Abel de Pujol, at the entrance: God and the Veillards of the Apocalypse, and his pupil Théophile Vauchelet, Prix de Rome 1829; at the apse: The Concert of the Angels; on the ceiling: The Evangelists, as well as four paintings by Jean Gigoux, which were rolled in 1982.
After it was converted into a multimedia meeting room, the Bureau of the Senate decided, in March 2018, that the room would henceforth be called the René MONORY room, in homage to the Senator for Vienne and former President of the Senate (1992-1998). It was inaugurated by the President of the Senate, Mr. Gérard LARCHER, on April 17, 2018.
The present reading room of the library was built during the enlargement of the palace of 1837, following the massive increase in the number of peers. The south facade is then advanced 31 meters onto the garden. In 1834, at the request of the Minister of the Interior, Thiers, authorizing officer of building expenditure relating to the Palace, Alphonse de Gisors (1796-1866), who had just been appointed architect of the Chamber of Peers, had undertaken to work the project for a new 300-seat meeting room and a new library.
Trained by the famous architect of the Empire, Charles Percier (1764-1838), Gisors adopted a classic formula for both exterior and interior volumes, and kept the general harmony of the building intact. On the recommendations of Thiers, Gisors entrusts the execution of the central decoration of the library to Delacroix (1798-1863), who at the same time realizes that of the library of the Palais Bourbon.
From 1841, the library installed its collections in a gallery 52 meters long (65 meters with the East and West cabinets) and 7 meters wide, adjacent to the meeting room and pierced by seven windows overlooking the Luxembourg garden. .
Alphonse de Gisors, who conducts the work, follows the recommendation of Adolphe Thiers and entrusts the decor of the ceiling to the painter Eugène Delacroix, who then works on the ceiling of the Palais Bourbon library, seat of the other assembly. He finished decorating the dome in 1846. The composition is inspired by the song IV of Dante’s Inferno. The library is now a room in length (52 m by 7 m), extended by two cabinets, east and west, whose seven windows (all south side) overlook the Luxembourg Garden.
Several eminent writers were employed in the Senate library in the 19th century: the Parnassian poet Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894) andAnatole France (1844-1924). He served as “supervising clerk” from 1876 to 1890, when he resigned from the Senate to devote himself to his literary work.
The Annex Library
The Palace having returned to Gaston d’Orléans on the death of Marie de Medici in 1642, the East Gallery houses the princely apartments. In 1750, the East Gallery hosted the first painting museum in Europe open to the public .
Closed in 1780 by the Count of Provence, brother of Louis XVI, future Louis XVIII and new owner of the palace, the museum reopened in 1803 under the Consulate, at the request of the senators. The ceiling of the gallery is then decorated with twelve paintings by Jordaens, the Signs of the Zodiac , which the artist had produced for his home in Antwerp, and by a painting by Callet, the Lever de l’Aurore .
The museum closed again in 1815, the exhibited works leaving to fill the rooms of the Louvre. It reopened in 1818 and became the first museum of living artists.
The Luxembourg Palace being assigned to the Senate of the Third Republic, the need for premises led to the transfer of the museum to another building, rue de Vaugirard, and in 1887 to transform the East gallery into an annex to the library. Oak shelving (two kilometers in total) accessible by a wrought iron gallery was then installed over the entire height of the walls, in which nearly 57,000 books are now kept.
Staircase of honor:
The staircase of honor or grand staircase was realized between 1803 and 1807 by the architect Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin who worked at the Luxembourg palace since 1787 and there assured the restoration of the gardens. The staircase replaced the gallery of Rubens.
The staircase, made up of 48 steps and a single landing, is decorated with six ancient stone lions inspired by the Egyptian lions of the fountains of Rome. Two other lions, initially adorning the upper end of the staircase, were removed in 1854 on the occasion of the creation of a communication gallery between the rooms on the first floor and the Luxembourg Museum then located within the enclosure. of the Luxembourg Palace. They were later replaced in the extension of the main staircase, at the start of the senators’ locker room.
The corbelled balustrade dates from the Second Empire, the series of Gobelins tapestries from the end of the 19th century, and the red carpet was put in place in 1958. The two bas-reliefs at the ends representing Minerva surrounded by winged spirits and made by the sculptors Ramey and Duret are original.
The Busts Gallery
This gallery, divided into two parts, was established on the site of the terrace of Marie de Médicis. It is through this gallery that the President of the Senate, passing between two rows of Republican Guards, goes to the hemicycle for the opening of the public session.
It had been covered by Chalgrin, under the First Empire, to house the archives of the Conservative Senate. The expansion work by Gisors in 1856 transformed it into a corridor linking the Sessions room and the current Conference room. It was here that the Senate decided, under the Second Empire, to bring together its entire collection of busts of former senators and peers of France. From 1880, this collection will be completed by the great men of the Third Republic.
The Gallery of Busts is lined with busts of great figures from the 19th century. It keeps the memory of senators and famous politicians. This long corridor is laid out in the place where the terrace of the original palace overlooking the garden was initially located and then, at the beginning of the 19th century, the first reading rooms of the library created by Chalgrin. It takes its name from a series of busts of great figures from the 19th century.
We note in particular the effigies of Adolphe Thiers by Chapu, Henri Wallon by Crauk, Sadi Carnot by Barrias, Léon Gambetta by Falguière, Jules Simon by Injalbert and Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau by Marqueste.
With an area of nearly 650 m2 (57 m long, 10.60 m wide, 11 m high) equal to that of the Louvre’s Apollo Gallery, the Conference Room occupies a space whose function has evolved. throughout history. It is first of all in its center that the staircase of Salomon de Brosse came out. It was there again that the hemicycle of the Conservative Senate took place during the first half of the 19th century.
In 1852, Napoleon III asked Alphonse de Gisors (1796-1861) to create a gallery of the Throne for the Imperial Senate . The architect then united the former Salle des Séances and the two adjoining salons in one piece .
The current decor, created between 1852 and 1854, is one of the richest in the Second Empire and includes numerous works. At each end, there is a ceiling in cul-de-four, with characters from the history of France by Henri Lehmann (1854). To the west, origins to Charlemagne; east of the First Crusade to Louis XV. On the ceiling, the Age of Peace and the Age of Victory by Adolphe Brune. Eight Gobelin tapestries illustrating Ovid’s Metamorphoses complete the decoration.
The throne of Napoleon I in gilded wood, made by François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (1770-1841) in 1804, was recently replaced there.
State Messengers Lounge
This room has kept the name it had during the time of the Consulate and the Empire, when the “state messengers” were installed there, responsible for the transmission of official documents between the public authorities. It is today an antechamber, as in the time of Marie de Médicis.
The wall decoration dates from Louis-Philippe, with a series of historical paintings including those of Flandrin (1809-1864) and Cabanel (1823-1889) – Richelieu and Louis XIII. On the ceiling, there is also an allegory by Decaisne (1799-1852) painted in 1843, the Law, enthroned surrounded by Justice and Force.