James Tissot (1836-1902), Le Cercle de la Rue Royale, 1868, Huile sur toile, Paris, musée d'Orsay, © Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

The Spectacular Second Empire, 1852-1870

A regime denigrated in its time and held in contempt after its fall, the Second Empire was, for a long time, associated with the decadence and superficiality of the “fête impériale”: “imperial merry-making and excess”. Against a background of social unrest, this prosperous era was a time of splendour and of economic euphoria, of ostentation, and lavish celebrations. It was also a period of moral and aesthetic crisis, torn between the old cultural frameworks and new practices, between increasingly excessive decoration and the quest for something real.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary in late 2016, the Musée d’Orsay is looking at the entertainments and festivities of the Second Empire and at the different “stages” towards modernity. The exhibition’s thematic lay-out, with paintings, sculptures, photographs, architectural drawings, objets d’art and jewellery side by side, creates a portrait of this prolific and brillant era, so rich in contradiction.

General Curator:
Guy Cogeval, President, Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie

Yves Badetz, General Curator, Musée d’Orsay and Director of the Musée Hébert
Paul Perrin, Curator, Musée d’Orsay
Marie-Paul Vial, Honorary Chief Heritage Curator

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