The Petit Palais

The Petit Palais charmed visitors to the 1900 Exposition Universelle with its elegant design and compact space.

The Petit Palais was built as the smaller companion to the Grand Palais, but it received much more favorable reviews than its big brother (Jullian 43). When the two buildings debuted at the 1900 Exposition, many strongly preferred the Petit Palais for its compact elegance. The building was designed by Charles Girault, an architect who favored the École des Beaux-Arts style (Drexler 455). In fact, the building is described as the “last Beaux-Arts expression of elegant planning and classicizing detail” by one history of the Beaux-Arts architectural movement (Drexler 455). The Petit Palais might have been viewed so favorably because of the extremely negative opinions about the Grand Palais. Compared to the large and complicated Grand Palais, the Petit Palais stood, in one contemporary critic's mind, as the epitome of French grace (Jullian 43). For many, the Petit Palais encompassed French aesthetics and met the goal of the Expositions to show off French artistry and culture. The public saw the Petit Palais as a brilliant model of the country’s artistic history. This pride reflects the Expositions’s greater goal of showcasing national pride through grandeur and artistry. The Petit Palais may be small, but it was received by the public as a beacon of French elegance.
Today, the Petit Palais is still an active exhibition space, with both a permanent collection and temporary exhibits. The permanent collection is free of charge, which makes the space more inviting than the Grand Palais across the road. The first rooms of the Petit Palais makes a marked first impression. Elaborate white carvings frame classical murals across the ceilings in the entryway and the front rooms. In the entryway, windows with scalloped ironwork pour light onto the front doors and desks. To the left of the entryway, a hall of statues precedes the permanent collection halls. The statues vary in style, era, and subject, ranging from a woman in Victorian dress to Greek wrestlers. Inside the collection halls, an eclectic range of portraits, paintings, and artifacts all coexist. Murals of circus performers and beggars look across to portraits of young, fashionable women in sweeping gowns. The side galleries house furniture and knick knacks. One glass case inshrined an orchestra of painted monkeys in 1700s French aristocratic dress stationed underneath an ornate clock. This piece captures both the opulence and oddity within the Petit Palais' collection. An early painting of Monet's is hung in one of these side galleries, almost as though it is a quiet part of the permanent collection. The next room? A garishly yellow hall of nude statues and portraiture. The Petit Palais' permanent collection is larger and odder than expected, with a wide variety of arts and styles occupying the same spaces.
The Petit Palais may have been more liked by visitors of the 1900 Exposition Universelle, but now it is the quieter building of the pair. Its interiors are far more elaborate than the Grand Palais, but it houses an eclectic and at times, overwhelming, array of exhibit halls. For such a small space, the Petit Palais holds an astounding amount of interior details, oddities, artworks, and at least three spiraling staircases. The Petit Palais is a surprising space in the series of buildings for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.

Images

Paris, le Petit Palais : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol]

Paris, le Petit Palais : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol]

Source: Agence Rol. Agence photographique. Paris, le Petit Palais : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol] 1921. R©f©rence bibliographique : Rol, 68581. public domain. ark:/12148/btv1b53068300z. Bibliotheque nationale de France, d©partement Estampes et photographie, EI-13 (821). http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb436676324. Bibliotheque nationale de France. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53068300z/f1.item.r=le%20petite%20palais%20paris. View File Details Page

Exposition du Petit Palais, boiseries du choeur de la cath�©drale de Verdun : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol], 1916

Exposition du Petit Palais, boiseries du choeur de la cath©drale de Verdun : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol], 1916

Source: Agence Rol. Agence photographique. Exposition du Petit Palais, boiseries du choeur de la cath©drale de Verdun : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol], 1916. Public Domain. ark:/12148/btv1b6952843c. Bibliotheque nationale de France, d©partement Estampes et photographie, EI-13 (530). http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b6952843c/f1.item.r=petite%20palais%20paris. View File Details Page

  Paris, 20-6-19, la statue au poilu, le Grand et le Petit Palais [canons pris aux Allemands, carrefour Marigny] : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol]. 1919

Paris, 20-6-19, la statue au poilu, le Grand et le Petit Palais [canons pris aux Allemands, carrefour Marigny] : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol]. 1919

Source: Agence Rol. Agence photographique. Paris, 20-6-19, la statue au poilu, le Grand et le Petit Palais [canons pris aux Allemands, carrefour Marigny] : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol]. 1919. Public domain. public domain Identifier : ark:/12148/btv1b53017622x Bibliotheque nationale de France, d©partement Estampes et photographie, EI-13 (649). http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53017622x/f1.item.r=petite%20palais%20paris. View File Details Page

Through the Gardens

Through the Gardens

This image shows one part of the roof of the Petite Palais framed by the trees that surround the building. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Garden

Garden

This image is of the garden beside the Petite Palais. Everything about the Palais is beautiful, including these gardens. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Symbol of France

Symbol of France

This detail shot shows the symbol of France included in the ornate, golden entrance to the Petite Palais. | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Looking Up

Looking Up

This image is of the exquisite ceiling of the Petite Palais which contributes to its grandeur. The light ceilings and the large windows provide natural lighting to its interior. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Paintings and Sculptures

Paintings and Sculptures

This image shows a portion of the permanent exhibit in the Petite Palais. This section included paintings and sculptures. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Artifacts

Artifacts

This images shows a section of the permanent exhibit in the Petite Palais that displays furniture, woven tapestries, pottery and more. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Courtyard

Courtyard

This image is the view of the courtyard in the center of the Petite Palais. The enormous windows that open on to the court yard provide natural light to the art on display inside. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Taking It In

Taking It In

This image shows a visitor to the permanent exhibit in the Petite Palais sitting and taking in the paintings on display. The paintings are hung in salon-style. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

A Perfect Venue

A Perfect Venue

This image shows a bride and groom having a photoshoot in front of the main entrance to the Petite Palais. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Something New

Something New

This image shows the banners displaying the upcoming and current temporary exhibits in the Petite Palais, including a an exhibit showing works of Van Gogh. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

A Grand Perspective

A Grand Perspective

This image shows the view of the Petite Palais from the perspective of the entrance to the Grand Palais. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

“The Petit Palais,” W&L Paris, accessed January 20, 2022, https://omeka.wlu.edu/wluparis/items/show/37.

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