LOCATED IN THE Marais district of Paris, the Hôtel Salé in rue de Thorigny is a tourist hot spot.
It was built between 1656 and 1659 for Pierre Aubert de Fontenay, a tax farmer who amassed a fortune collecting the gabelle, a hugely unpopular salt tax. Aubert used his wealth not only to buy land in the Marais upon which to build his hôtel particulier but also to purchase the office of Secretary to the King thus ensuring his entry to the nobility.
Aubert’s contemporaries referred to his mansion in derisory fashion as the Hôtel Salé – in French, salé means salty or salted.
After Aubert’s death, the mansion changed hands several times either by sale or inheritance. In 1671, the Embassy of the Republic of Venice moved in and then François de Neufville, duc de Villeroi. The property was expropriated by the State during the French Revolution. In 1815 it became a school, in which Balzac studied, before housing the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1829 and then the municipal École des Métiers d’Art.
It was acquired by the City of Paris in 1964 and granted historical monument status in 1968.
Today, the Hôtel Salé houses the Musée Picasso, an art gallery dedicated to the work of the Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso.
Rear view of l’Hôtel Salé – Image via Wikipedia
When Aubert de Fontenay built his mansion he included a garden and a planted terrace at the rear. Today, most of that garden is enclosed within the iron railings bordering the Musée Picasso but a small part of it, in medieval times an orchard of fruit trees, vegetables and aromatic plants, is now a public park, the Jardin de l’Hôtel Salé-Léonor-Fini.
The name of the park not only reflects Aubert’s hôtel particulier and the Musée Picasso but also the work of another modern artist, Leonor Fini (1907 – 1996), the Argentinean surrealist painter, designer, illustrator, and author, known for her depictions of powerful women.
Sounds in the Jardin de l’Hôtel Salé-Léonor-Fini:
Not minded to join the seemingly endless queue coiling round the courtyard of the Hôtel Salé, I was quite content to spend my crisp, bright early November afternoon sitting in the Jardin de l’Hôtel Salé-Léonor-Fini looking at the colours and listening to the sounds of a Parisian Autumn.