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HOTEL DE PAIVA, Champs Elysées

This is an add-on to the previous post about the Hotel de Païva at the Champs Elysées

I did some research on this extraordinary place, and I scanned some pictures of the interiors out of my books for your delectation:
The Grand SalonThe Bathroom

The following is a transcript of a book published in the UK about the Paiva:

Thérèse Lachmann, later Mme Villoing, later Mme la Marquise de Païva, later Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck (1819-84)

Today [1857] la Païva has the best and most elegant hôtel in Paris, her dinners are reputed to be exquisite, she entertains many artists and men of letters, and her conversation is said to be witty .. .

I have seen [continued Viel-Castel] the plans of a palace which Mauguin, the architect, is building her in the Champs-Elysees. The land and the building, without the furnishing, will cost a million and a haI£ La Païva displays two million francs' worth of diamonds, pearls and precious stones on her person. She is the great debauchee of the century.’

[...] The hôtel Païva was to be, as its châtelaine intended, the most luxurious private hôtel in Paris.

Its architect was Pierre Mauguin; and for ten years he laboured at his creation. He organised what were virtually workshops in the ChampsElysees, where all the work was done in his presence, after his designs. Even the marble and onyx he ordered were carved on the site, as cathedral builders might have carved them in the Middle Ages. La Païva would often arrive, on her way back from the Bois, and inspect the building; once, it is said, she found a carpenter who had been happily settled in some obscure small room for five years. 'What!' she cried. 'You're still here! You must be God Everlasting.'

[...] The new hôtel stood in a Champs-Elysees which, at the end of the Second Empire, was still unspoilt by signs of plebeian commerce. There were no shops, but half-a-dozen nearby private hôtels dazzled the eye and imagination. There was Prince Napoleon's neo-Pompeian palace; there was Emile de Girardin's Roman palace, a scholarly reply to Pion-Pion's architectural paganism. There was the Gothic castle of the Comte de Quinsonas, the Tunisian chateau of Jules de Lesseps, the remarkable rose-coloured hôtel of the Duke of Brunswick. And, finally, among these grandiose pastiches, there was now the hôtel Païva (which alone remains, as The Travellers' Club, today). The hôtel Païva was mentioned in the guide to the sights of Paris. It stood out, like la Païva herself, as a symbol of the Second Empire; and whether or not one admired the intensity of its ornamentation, it represented, and that with splendour, the taste of the time.

The vast salon, lit by five tall windows, seemed a kind of temple dedicated to the worship of physical pleasure: it was hard to take ones eyes off the magnificent ceiling where Baudry had painted Day chasing Night away. The four quarters of the day were represented by mythological divinities: Apollo bending his bow, Hecate with her silver crescent preparing to wrap herself in her starry mantle, Aurora still asleep on her rosy cloud, Vesper melancholy and pensive. All the figures converged towards the centre of the oval vault, and they were connected by pairs of genii which symbolised the hours. Cabanel and Gerome had also contributed paintings, famous sculptors had carved the mantelpieces in the smaller rooms; but some critics thought that Baudry's ceiling (which would prepare him to paint his great frescoes in the new Opera) was alone worth all the other treasures in the hôtel. 'I want to have been the only person on earth to enjoy your delectable painting,' Mme de Païva had told Baudry. '{ think I have the right, since I paid you the price you asked for it. You must pray to God that I live!'

Yet what other treasures there were! The salons were hung with crimson damask, specially woven at Lyons for eight hundred thousand francs. The staircase, lit by a massive lustre in sculpted bronze, was made - steps, baluster and wall - entirely of onyx. Mrs Moulton, the American banker’s wife, seems to have heard some rumours of its splendour. She recorded that 'a lady, whose virrue is someone else's reward, has a magnifIcent and much-talked-of hôtel in the Champs- Elysees, where there is a staircase worth a million francs, made of real alabaster. Prosper Merimee said: "c' est par là qu'on monte à la vertu.’ (It was reported that Augier, the dramatist, asked to compose some lines in honour of the staircase, replied with the devastating quotation: 'Ainsi que la vertu, Ie vice a ses degres.') The first floor, to which the staircase led, was reserved for la Païva: for her bathroorn, bedroom and boudoir, and a room for Henckel von Donnersmarck. The bathroom, said Gautier, was worthy of a Sultana in the Arabian Nights. Its walls were onyx and marble, enhanced by Venetian ceramics, and by a ceiIing in the Moorish style. The bath was solid onyx, like the lavatory under the window; it was lined with silvered bronze, with gilt, engraved designs representing fleurs-de-lys. The three taps, sculpted and gilt, were set with precious stones. The bedroom insolently proclaimed the triumph of la volupté. The locks on the doors were said to be worth two thousand francs apiece. The bed, encrusted with rare woods and ivory, delicately wrought, stood like an altar in an alcove, under a ceiling on which Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn, hovered in the empyrean. It had cost a hundred thousand francs. 'Fifty thousand francs?' la Païva had cried, when she saw the original estimate. 'Do you want me to have fleas? Put a hundred thousand francs!' The visitor felt himself in the presence of a single idea: the defiant, obsessive idea of personal glorification.

At [one of her mansions], so the legend went, there was a servant whose only task was to open and shut one hundred and forty windows; he began his work at six in the morning and finished it at midnight, and he fmally died of exhaustion. The park [...] was Dante's Hell for the gardeners, who were said to be fined fifty centimes for every leaf found on the ground. Mme de Païva, in person, collected the fines at dawn.

Païva and her Prussian husband were exiled from France under suspicion of being spies.
In 1878, she was now a pathetic fIgure. She had had a stroke, and she had smashed the Venetian mirror in her room so as not to see her physical decline. Four personal maids had been unable to disguise the signs of her paralysis and degeneration. She would take a series of baths, in vain, to counteract the acidity of her blood: a milk bath, a lime-flower bath, a scented bath; and once, it was said, she tried to bath in champagne.
But she had heart disease, and her body swelled unmercifully. She died at Neudeck [Donnersmarck’s castle] on 21 January 1884. She was sixty-fIve.

excerpt from Joanna Richardson, The Courtesans: The Demi-Monde in 19th-Century France (London: Phoenix Press, 2000)

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3 Responses to “HOTEL DE PAIVA, Champs Elysées”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Thank you for more information on Hotel Pavia than I have found anywhere else! Just finished a book about courtesans of the era & found out the hotel was still standing. It seems to be a private club, is there any way for a regular (non-member) to visit , dine or stay there? Who are members?
    Thanks- Ann Marie  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I used to be a member of the Travelers Club and remember that a coffee table book about the premises was produced ca 1975. I would like to obtain a copy of this book if it's still in print and available.
    Can anyone direct me? Many thanks.
    James Algrant
    PO Box 1047
    Camden, ME 04843

  3. # Blogger Draffin Bears

    thank you for your post you did on this wonderful hotel.
    Back in January we spent a night here, and the place is magnificent.
    The photos really do not do it justice.

    Happy weekend

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