From House to Museum

“Balzac had left the rue des Batailles for les Jardies; he then went to stay in Passy. The house in which he lived, situated on a sharp incline, offered a fairly unique architectural layout - one entered “a little like wine into a bottle.” One had to go down three floors to reach the first. The front door, from the street side, opened almost onto the roof, like a mansard.” - Théophile Gautier, Honoré de Balzac, 1859

After Balzac’s departure, the landlord, Etienne Désiré Grandemain, oversaw certain projects, such as the reduction of the dining room. On the death of Grandemain in 1878, the pavilion returned to his daughter, Madame Barbier, who, having known Balzac, offered the honor of a visit to a select few who had an interest in the house. It is through one such visit that, in 1890, scholar Louis Baudier de Royaumont discovers the Passy residence. The apartment is then rented -- for instance, by the architect Hénin from 1905 to 1907.

  • 16 May 1908: Nearly twenty years after his first visit to Madame Barbier, Louis Baudier de Royaumont rents the house from her.
  • 16 July 1910: Official inauguration of the museum by Louis Baudier de Royaumont in the company of Madame Barbier; Madame Duhamel-Surville, Balzac’s great-niece; and Mademoiselle Carrier-Belleuse, his great-great-niece.
  • 3 May 1913: The pavilion is classified in the inventory of historical monuments.
  • 1918: Death of Louis Baudier de Royaumont. A new landlord, Louis Allainguillaume, calls on “conservator” Carlos Larronde. Important work is thus begun. It is in this period that embrasures are made in the majority of the house’s doors and the walls are “scrubbed brand-new,” destroying all hope of recovering the slightest example of old wallpapers or paints.
  • 1922: Louis Allainguillaume sub-lets Balzac’s apartment to André Chancerel, who will fight his entire life for its official recognition as a museum.
  • 5 January 1929: Death of Madame Barbier. In her will, she bestows Balzac’s apartment to the state, but the state will not take possession of it until 1950.
  • 13 January 1930: The private-interest real estate group (45 rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin), whose appointed administrator is the Countess of Limur, becomes usufructuary of 47 rue Raynouard until 1950. Work is begun under the direction of two architects of historical monuments. The roofing in particular is redone.
  • 1937: Expansion of the rue Raynouard. Apartments 47 and 49 are demolished. Only the Balzac House remains of the old “folie Bertin,” at its foot.
  • 13 March 1944: The garden is registered in the inventory of historical monuments.
  • 1949: The Balzac House becomes a museum of the City of Paris.
  • 1960: Reopening of the museum. The entire pavilion becomes the Balzac House. Conservators Patrice Boussel and Jacqueline Sarment develop its acquisitions and organize its first expositions.
  • 1971: Opening of the library.