Debussy Museum … in Saint-Germain-en-Laye …

  At No. 38 Rue du Pain in the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is situated the town’s tourist office. It is a narrow, upright building, no different from any others on the long and narrow street. However, upstairs on the first floor is a two-room museum: the Debussy Museum. Entry to the museum is free which […]

French composer Claude Debussy’s death mask (cc Marilyn Tomlins)

 

At No. 38 Rue du Pain in the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is situated the town’s tourist office.

It is a narrow, upright building, no different from any others on the long and narrow street.

However, upstairs on the first floor is a two-room museum: the Debussy Museum.

Entry to the museum is free which is unusual (very unusual) for a French museum.

A sign outside on the street does indicate that the building houses the Debussy Museum, but the sign is easily overlooked.  I often visit the town’s chateau but I must admit that until now I’ve not walked along Rue du Pain and had thus not visited the Debussy Museum until last weekend.

The tourist office consists of just one small room where a charming young lady will answer your questions about the town, even about neighbouring towns, and where one can buy the usual ‘made-in-China’ fridge magnets and various books about the town.

The Debussy Museum is through a charming little courtyard, and then up a few stairs and one is in the museum.

As I’ve said, it is but small – two rooms – and truth is that the French composer Claude Debussy though he was born in that house in 1862, where the ground floor was a china shop which belonged to his father Manuel-Achille Debussy, he had not set foot in the building after 1867 when the Debussys – father, mother and the Debussy children – moved to Paris.  Debussy was then five years old.  In 1870, then 8, he went with his mother and his younger siblings to the Mediterranean town of Cannes because in Paris the Franco-Prussian War was raging.  By then Debussy had already wanted to play the piano and had started to take lessons.  In 1872, then ten, he was back in Paris and enrolling at the Paris Conservatoire where he would study music for the next eleven years.

The courtyard of No. 38 Rue du Pain in Saint Germain-en-Laye where Claude Debussy was born (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins(

 

No. 38 Rue du Pain, Saint-Germain -en-Laye where Claude Debussy was born. Iit is the 3rd building from the right. (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

Being quite a womaniser, he had had several love affairs before he settled down with a married woman who would become the mother of his only child, a daughter, in a comfortable apartment on the Avenue du Bois, today Avenue Foch and the Paris street with the most expensive real estate properties.

Debussy and his wife, whom he had married along the line, remained living in that apartment until his death on March 25, 1918. He was 55 and died of rectal cancer. It being WW1 he died during a German bombing of Paris.

Because of the war and funeral processions not convenient, he was temporarily buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, but his body was exhumed and re-buried after the war in the Passy Cemetery closer to the Avenue du Bois apartment.

Thus, Saint-Germain-en-Laye has little reason to have a Debussy Museum.

However, the museum is there on the first floor of No. 38 Rue du Pain.

It is worth a visit …

Most of the items on display were donated to the museum by Madame de Tinan, Debussy’s daughter-in-law.

You will see Debussy’s death mask (as above), created in plaster by Eliza Beetz-Charpentier (1859-1949). 

And you will also see Debussy’s tuxedo and his metronome.

Debussy’s tux (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Debussy’s metronome (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

 

The building in itself is worth seeing.

The small courtyard through which one reaches the museum is charming with a water well dating from when the Debussys lived in the building, and a bronze sculpture created in 1987 by the Atelier Coubertin specially in honour of Debussy and his creation Prèlude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) for which Nijinksy had created the choreography.

The Debussy Museum’s courtyard (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The Faunes et Chevres Bronze sculpture to honour Debussy (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

 

The water well in the courtyard of the Debussy Museum (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

It is easy and quick to get to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The RER A1 métro train is the one you will have to take. Most economical will be for you to buy a Mobilis day ticket. This ticket is priced by zone, and Saint-Germain-en-Laye falls in Zone 4. Such a ticket will cost you € 12.40, and the ticket will be valid until midnight.

The Debussy Museum (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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