Mansions of the “Tax Farmers”
The kings of France, in order to increase their revenue by collecting more taxes, granted lucrative rights to a few select fermiers généraux (“tax farmers”) to collect customs and other fees. These fermiers généraux were allowed to keep a percentage of the financial “harvest” after the king took his share.
The structure below is not a mansion but one of the tollhouses that allowed the fermiers généraux to collect customs for merchandise entering Paris. This privilege allowed them to amass immense wealth.
Resentment over the unfairness of these taxes, and the sometimes brutal measures that the fermiers généraux took to collect them, led to the abolition of the system during the French Revolution. The wealthy tax collectors were among the first to face the guillotine.
Many of the surviving mansions from l’ancien régime were built by fermiers généraux. They were normally expansive, free-standing residences situated between a ceremonial courtyard (the cour d’honneur) and a garden.
After the French Revolution abolished the system of tax collection and executed its “farmers,” many hôtels particuliers were converted to museums, schools, hotels, government buildings, or residences for foreign ambassadors.
Hôtels Particuliers of the 17th & 18th Centuries
The first mansion at this site was built in 1587. Over the centuries, it was renovated and transformed. After the French Revolution, it was retrofitted as a sugar refinery. It reached its present Italian-Spanish Neo-Baroque style in 1857.
Hôtel de Mayenne
Site of a medieval mansion, Hôtel de Mayenne underwent architectural transformations over the centuries and reached its (approximate) present state in the first half of the 17th century. It now houses a school.
Hôtel de Chenizot
Chimeras descended from medieval bestiaries support the ornate balcony, :
Built 1711-1713. It’s currently t is the residence of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to France.
Hôtel de Choiseul-Praslin
Baroque-style mansion built in 1732:
Hôtel de Salm
Mansion built 1782-1787 for a German prince. The Revolutionary government nationalized the building to house the Légion d’honneur. Thomas Jefferson, during his ambassadorship in Paris, admired the building and modeled his Monticello on the design.
Built in 1248 and rebuilt in 1585. Until it was appropriated during the French Revolution, it belonged to a a Cistercian abbey. It now houses the Association for the Safeguarding and Enhancement of Historic Paris.
Rue de l’Estrapade
Former hôtel particulier and coffee roasting factory, built at the end of the 18th century.
A look inside a 19th-century hôtel particulier: Musée Jacquemart-André
The hôtel particulier Jacquemart-André is an exception to the “tax farmer” category — Eduard André came from a Protestant family of successful bankers. He married a talented society painter, Nélie Jacquemart, and together they built a mansion (1869-1875) and amassed a large collection of art. They willed both to the state, which opened it to the public as an historic monument and art museum.
The tea room at the Musée Jacquemart-André:
The tea room’s walls are hung with tapestries from the celebrated Gobelins factory, illustrating the life of Achilles.
A trompe l’oeil mural on the ceiling:
I have resisted until now posting pictures of food, but the tarte aux figues below was beyond irresistible.
Lagnappe: a couple of paintings at an Impressionist exhibit at Musée Jacquemart-Andrée:
Berthe Morisot (1841-1895): Jeune fille sur l’herbe (detail)
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), La Change, épisode de chasse au chevreuil