Deyrolle – A Parisian Curiosity
Paris is home to many unique and exotic stores and experiences and Deyrolle, the fantastic taxidermy shop, is certainly the most unusual one that I’ve found so far. Deyrolle was founded by well-known entomologist Emile Deyrolle in 1831, and has been at its current two-story premises since 1881. Can you believe that’s 136 years in the one place!
The shop occupies two floors with several rooms full of tons of exotic and majestic animals, all of which are very pretty and very dead. This inviting and somewhat well known tourist attraction is well worth a visit when you are next in Paris. I feel it epitomises the old style world of Paris that existed when numerous scientific and social sciences were being explored and inventions were changing life for many people. Even if you are not interested in buying taxidermied creatures or you feel it’s not really your thing, the feeling of passing through a time warp
as you ascend the stairs to the second floor is quite amazing and honestly the store is almost more a museum than a store. To describe it as a taxidermy shop only, does not seem fair at all, it’s really so much more.
The ground floor, Le Prince Jardinier, looks like a fairly ordinary small home and garden shop (apart from a couple of stuffed gazelles standing on their hind legs and dressed to look like humans). This is the very first inkling of how different this store is. The second story, which in France is considered the first, appears to have changed little since the store moved to its current location in 1881. (Read about the fire however below.) It’s dusty, chaotic, and crammed with stuffed animals of all shapes, sizes and poses, as well as ancient wooden cases full of insects, shells, botanical prints and a variety of curiosities.
Exotic taxidermy, entomology, and natural history specimens displayed in antique wooden cases and glass bell jars have made this store a destination for Parisians ever since it opened its doors. In 2007, much of the store was destroyed in a predawn conflagration that left in its wake a haunting tableau of singed wings and charred fur.
With the help of artists and collectors worldwide, the store has been largely rebuilt from that fire. Today everything from house cats to polar bears are once again on display in Deyrolle. The store itself has also managed to maintain its 19th-century decor, with beautiful wooden cases and specimen drawers throughout. Though some of the more exotic animals are not for sale, almost everything in the store is available for rent – should one ever need a lion for a night. Atlas Obscura You would never know the store suffered from a fire, the rebuild is so clever you really do feel like you’re stepping back in time.
I must say I’m not into bug catching or taxidermy but these pastimes and occupations have certainly been around a lot longer than I’ve lived and I understand they have their place in research and education. What would a museum be if not for its display of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles amphibians and arthropods? Museums carefully preserve and display species currently known to man for the current and future generations aswell as for natural sciences research.
The store took my mind back to when I visited Vienna and the mind blowing Natural History Museum prominently located in the Ringstrasse. Deciding what to do when in Vienna is a big decision… there is so much to experience. We decided on (amongst others) the Natural History Museum as it would entertain our younger daughter and because it’s amongst the most splendid of the buildings that line the Vienna Ringstrasse. Also, it has one of the largest natural history collections in the world. I could not believe how huge this museum is with room after room of collections of dinosaur skeletons to meteorites, and to insects that are even too small for the smallest most delicate stick pin to hold them down for display. Their body even smaller than the head of a pin!
© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar /
The Museum founded 250 years ago by Franz Stephan von Lothringen has grown to over 25 million objects and forms the basis for natural sciences research at the Natural History Museum (NHM). Truly, an amazing place that has remained in my memory as one of the best travel experiences ever, however I digress … back to Deyrolle …
So back to all these amazing animals, birds and insects… you wouldn’t believe how real they look. Especially these little guys, I really wanted to pet them, pick them up and put them in my pocket. But of course, apart from the fact that they were really really dead, cost a lot (200€) and there were signs everywhere saying ‘Ne pas toucher’ (‘Don’t Touch’) I did none of the above.
Peace and calm reigns in this iconic very Parisian store so conversations tend to be low and any enquiries or purchases will be dealt with in a methodical and almost reverent manner by serious assistants. If you want to make up a small arrangement with arthropods of your choice, it will probably not be completed immediately so if you intend to take it home on your trip I would suggest visiting and placing your order at the beginning of your Paris stay and then collecting your display prior to your departure, otherwise your item will have to be shipped. I imagine that any substantial purchase would be dealt with seriously with all packing, shipping and customs paperwork of your fragile and pricey item organised for you.
Don’t let this seriousness dissuade you though from visiting and experiencing all that Deyrolle has to offer. A word of warning however, this is probably not the most suitable store for a family visit and if you take young children or prams don’t be offended if limited access only is granted.
While I was admiring the vast array of iridescent bugs and butterflies I was privy to a very personal interchange between two obvious lovers. A younger gentleman was making a purchase for his girlfriend and she was deciding which beetles she wanted to add to her collection at home. Their passion for collecting was evident as was their passion for pleasing each other. They discussed, debated and eventually made a decision on the bugs, display case and arrangement foliage. While not my style of romantic gift, it was touching to witness this intimate exchange. I thought to myself… ‘only in Paris’!
My fascination of this store was only increased when it was used or recreated for a party setting in the film Midnight in Paris starring Owen Wilson and directed by Woody Allen. Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a screenwriter and aspiring novelist who while holidaying in Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) takes to exploring Paris alone at night. Magic happens on the stroke of midnight and he sweeps back in time to the Jazz Age, meeting icons of art and literature living in Paris. Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali and Man Ray are all part of the magic with even Henri Lautrec appearing at le Moulin Rouge.
Midnight in Paris is one of my all time fav movies set in Paris. This official trailer has a short scene showing the store.
Not sure whether to add this store to your Paris tour? Then watch this Masion Deyrolle in Paris clip below to see for yourself.
There you have it… Deyrolle – A Parisian Curiosity. Are you curious to see this store for yourself and maybe explore more of the Left Bank also? I wish you happy travels and may you continue to enjoy what is different and curious Annette xx
To get to Deyrolle by the métro, get off at Métro Rue du Bac, walk north on Rue du Bac toward the river, and you’ll soon see the shop on the left side at 46 rue du bac 75007 PARIS. Tel: +33 (0) 1 42 22 30 07.
Store hours are: Lundi 10h-13h/14h-19h | Mardi-Samedi 10h-19h
Deyrolle was an easy walk from my hotel when I stayed at Hotel de Saint-Germain on 50 rue du Four. I love to stay in this area with its publishing maisons, art and antique stores and numerous cafes. My 5 reasons for staying at and recommending Hotel de Saint-Germain can be read here in an earlier post.
If you are thinking of a trip to Paris, I’d check out Webjet’s cheap flights to Paris. Webjet can also help with everything from accommodation, flights, tours and more.
Deyrolle has its own Facebook page if you want to see more of what they do, and both the websites of the Deyrolle shop and Le Prince Jardinier are fun to look around. Le Prince Jardinier displays many of their gardening and home items and if you’ve been dreaming of getting a metal garden chair exactly the same as those in Jardin du Luxembourg or Jardin des Tuileries, then this is the shop for you. The price tag scared me away, but they are beautiful and truly French – just not within my budget.
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