Maisons-Alfort Travel Guide

  • Rider of Apocalypse
    Rider of Apocalypse
    by kokoryko
  • Horse greeting you
    Horse greeting you
    by kokoryko
  • Impressive face of the Rider of Apocalypse
    Impressive face of the Rider of...
    by kokoryko

Maisons-Alfort Things to Do

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    Fragonard's rider

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The rider of the Apocalypse of Fragonard
    When I decided to visit the museum of the veterinary school of Maisons Alfort, I was puzzled and excited knowing I would see some of Fragonard’s works.
    Jean Honoré Fragonard, for me is a great French painter of the 18th century, who very well expressed states of mind or soul in his beautiful portraits (look at the “Inspiration” during your next visit in the Louvre museum), painted beautiful landscapes and is also known for some “naughty” paints or drawings. . . . . I was interested to visit a veterinary museum, (biology, natural science, animals medicine, animals breeding, veterinary science history. . .) and puzzled, as the museum is named ”Musée Fragonard”, name of the great painter: what is the link between a veterinary school and a famous painter?

    As soon I purchased the entrance at the ticket office, I learned I was making a big mistake: the museum is named Fragonard, but after “Honoré Fragonard”, not “Jean Honoré Fragonard”; Honoré was a cousin of the famous painter, he was an anatomist who eventually became director of the first French veterinary school in Lyon, in 1766, then created the veterinary school of Maisons Alfort which he directed until 1771.
    Fragonard dissected thousands of animals (and humans) and implemented an écorché conservation method which is still a mystery; not only did he make anatomic écorchés, but he made them in a very impressive artistic way, giving personality to his scientific displays.
    The Fragonard Museum displays some of his works (thousands of his works have been lost and dispersed), and of course, there are anatomy, pathology, skeletons rooms, displays on history of veterinary science, etc. . . . A very interesting and sometimes scary museum. . . . .
    Entrance: 7 Euros
    Audioguide free, but in French only.

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    Bronchial 4 more images

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    What can you discover in such a museum? Something like in Natural History museums, a bit focused on veterinary science, animals anatomy and pathologies, variations in breeds, how the animals are studied; of course, before veterinary science became a medicine for doggies, kitties (well, not for them, but more presumably for their over-anxious “owners”!), it was mostly dedicated to agriculture. So that is why the displays are mostly about farm animals, horses, cows, goats, etc. . . .
    There are four main display rooms in the museum, and in the first one, you discover anatomy, how it was understood and taught in the last century, differences between cow and horse stomachs, muscles, nervous system, etc. . . and these “baobab trees” on the picture 1) are the respiratory systems of a sheep and a dog (the bronchial tree to be precise).
    In the skeleton room, you will of course see lots of bones and compare the skeletons of many animals, variances in shapes and sizes; it is a bit messy in that room (picture 2), but funny to look at all these bones of various animals.
    The third room is a sort of a “museum of horrors” as lost of very spectacular pathologies are displayed, like “janus calves” (double headed calves), 5, 6, etc. legged “quadrupeds”, single eyed pigs, arthritic horse bones, etc. . . I had a close look at special stones, giant calculi of horse stomachs weighting more than 50 kg, or having strange structures or shapes (picture 3) .
    Veterinaries made also research for fighting bulls breeding and on display (picture 4) are skulls of different breeds of fighting bulls (notice the marks of the different breeders), with different sizes and shapes of horns.
    There are a few paintings in the museum, and, if some show veterinaries at work, other show rural life and activity, when animals were the essential force (horse power) used for work, like this one (picture 5) tries to express.
    Entrance: 7 Euros
    Audioguide free, but in French only.

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    Impressive face of the Rider of Apocalypse 4 more images

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    As written in a above tip, Fragonard was, in some sense a very skilled anatomist, and also a very innovative researcher, and in some way a great artist who knew to display his works in dramatic or impressive situations.
    Fragonard also skinned men and women, displayed them with the animals, made anatomic montages and in some way we could say staged them.
    We have seen the rider of Apocalypse and here (picture 2) is a man in a warrior posture; all the attitude is impressive, but don’t be afraid, all these displays are behind glasses, in controlled atmosphere ( bad photographs (: . . ). Fragonard’s warrior looks very realistic in his pose, and it seems Nature blessed him with some advantage for certain activities. . . . or did Fragonard make some fun of his work? (As I suspect).
    My purpose is not to be scabrous here, not describe the choice of the corpse, how it was prepared (emptying the blood, way of cutting, preparation of fluids and colours he would then inject, etc. . . . ), all is explained in the museum (even in English).
    This warrior is displayed in a hunting situation, holding a big lower mandible as a weapon, about to hit an antelope (picture 3); animals and human together.
    A strange scene, seeing the rider of Apocalypse passing peacefully next to a lama (picture 4)
    This rider reminds me some movies of Eisenstein (the Teutonic knights in “Alexander Nevski”) or even Ingmar Bergman (the “Seventh Seal”, at the beginning), or Dürer’s drawing of the knight meeting the Death. . . . This rider is really impressive, a real Rider of Apocalypse (picture 5), and, when you will visit, hope his expressive face (picture 1) will not haunt your nights when back home. . . . .
    Entrance: 7 Euros
    Audioguide free, but in French only.

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Maisons-Alfort Hotels

Maisons-Alfort Transportation

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    Pont de Bercy 4 more images

    by kokoryko Written Feb 21, 2010

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    Maisons Alfort is a near suburb of Paris, mainly known for its veterinary school, and not a lot more is to see in this 50.000 inhabitants city: suburb atmosphere, flowered streets, banks of the Seine, a fort (which you only can visit during Patrimony Days)
    You can go to Maisons Alfort by RER or metro, but there is also a regular boat service (Voguéo) from Paris, gare d’Austerlitz to Maisons Alfort, and the short trip is a nice (and cheap) opportunity to see the eastern Paris bridges from beneath.
    Before admiring the Bercy Bridge (picture 1), you had a short trip on the Seine (Not the most touristy places!), passing beneath the Tolbiac Bridge (picture 2), you crossed the boat doing the route in opposite direction (picture 3), and near the Seine and Marne rivers junction, you even can see that East of Paris, are some Chinatowns (picture 4)
    While waiting for the boat in Maisons Alfort, have a look at the boats moored on the banks of the Marne, have a look at the high pedestrian bridge (picture 5), walk along the flowered banks, look at the boats passing in the locks; and if you miss your boat, the next one will be in 15mn, so no hurry, visit the banks of the Marne.

    There are 5 stations serviced by the Voguéo boat line run by the Batobus company.
    So, you can take the boats like a bus, jump in, jump out at the stations; commuters get on with regular Paris area transportation systems passes, and occasional travellers pay 3 Euro, a single fare; the trip takes 25-30 mn.
    Schedules: week days, every 10-15 mn; week ends every 20 mn.

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