The New Musée Carnavalet and a Renaissance Quiz

Whenever I’m in Paris, I make a point of visiting the Musée Carnavalet, which chronicles the history of the city. During my last pre-pandemic trip in 2018, however, the museum was closed for renovations. So, it wasn’t until June 2022 that I once again had a chance to wander the museum’s beautiful Renaissance hallways and contemplate a reality that is far different from the one I’m living.

Free Admission at Musée Carnavalet
Musée Carnavalet, by Francisco Anzola.

Undone or Redone?

My favorite space in the museum used to be a large entry hall that was crowded with centuries-old signage, advertising a variety of businesses from bars to locksmiths to real estate agents. The room still exists, but its new coat of bright white paint and a sparser selection of artifacts left me feeling as though a somewhat sacrilgious defacing had been committed in my absence.

Gallery of Signs
New gallery of signs at the Musée Carnavalet.

A docent intercepted my path and directed me to a new entry point. Previously, one would enter the museum and wander at will. Now, there is a specific course to follow through the museum. You start with pre-history and go from there. I was finding the new systematic routing somewhat off-putting, but this was the Carnavalet and I needed to give it a fair chance.

Following the prescribed track, I quickly became engrossed in the pieces before me. However, I was mildly apprehensive that some of the artworks I most wanted to see might no longer be on display. It was like going to a party where there are interesting new people to talk to but you will be disappointed if none of your friends turn up.

The Cris de Paris

As I entered each new room, I became increasingly convinced that the curators had done a good job re-organizing their collection. But, I couldn’t fully embrace the new arrangement until I came upon Les Cris de Paris in its new location.

Painted in 1634 by the virtually unknown “A. Doy”, The Cris de Paris is comprised of 4 wooden panels. Each panel depicts a variety of street vendors calling out their wares. I’ve loved this composition since the first day I laid eyes on it. Staring at the peculiar peddlers and imagining the cacophony of their sing-songy sales pitches conjures a vision of an utterly foreign world that once existed in spaces where you can still tread today—perhaps on some of the very same cobblestones.

Les Cris de Paris
Two panels from Les Cris de Paris, depicting 17th-century street vendors.

17th-Century Career Quiz

Art historians believe that Doy based his caricatures on a series of engravings by Pierre Brebiette—also created in the 1630s. If indeed it was Brebiette who came up with the idea of capturing the hawkers of Paris, I am deeply grateful to him. But, I prefer Doy’s somewhat quirkier renditions, perhaps only because I saw them first.

While in the museum, I took pictures of several of the individual hucksters. Rather than placing them all in a gallery for you to browse, I thought you might enjoy a quiz where you must match the vendor with its French description.

Below you will find a table of images and descriptions but they are not aligned. Each description contains the name of a profession followed by the cry that the related merchant might have employed to attract a customer (according to Brebiette’s original etchings). An English description appears last. The answer key lies at the bottom of this post.

Test Your Knowledge

1. Marchande de noirA. Marchand d’eau de vie.
“À la bonne eau de vie pour rejouir le cœur!”

Merchant selling alcoholic spirits, made by fermenting honey, cereals, fruits, or other plants.
2. Porteur d'eauB. Chaudronnier.
“Chaudronniers argent des rechaux!”

A coppersmith carrying a brazier and tools to help him mend and reshape pots.
3. Marchande de beurreC. Marchande de noir fumée.
“À noirsir du noir!”

A merchant selling chimney soot, used to tint paints or make ink.
4. Marchand de parementsD. Marchand de fagots.
“Foysre nouveau foisre!”

A merchant selling bundles of sticks.
5. Vendeur de journauxE. Marchand de plumeaux.
“Argent des houçois!”

A merchant selling feather dusters and rushes for beating carpets.
6. Marchand d'eau de vieF. Marchande de beurre.
“Beurre frais beurre frais!”

A butter merchant.
7. LaitièreG. Marchande de cerises.
“Serize douce serize!”

A merchant selling cherries and carrying a means to weigh the purchase.
8. Marchand de fagotsH. Vendeur de journaux.
“Almanahz nouveaux!”

A newspaper salesman, here hawking almanacs.
9. Marchand de bancsI. Marchand de paniers.
“Argent des mannequins!”

A wicker basket merchant.
10. ChaudronnierJ. Marchand de parements.
“Qui a de vieux parement d’argent!”

A merchant selling fine fabric used to line garments.
11. Marchande de cerisesK. Marchande d’huitres.
“Des huitres à l’escalle!”

An oyster merchant.
12. Marchande d'huitresL. Laitière.
“À bon lait!”

A milk vendor.
13. Marchand de plumeauxM. Marchand de bancs.
“Argent des celles!”

A merchant selling wooden benches.
14. Marchand de panniersN. Porteur d’eau.
“Qui veut de l’eau!”

A water carrier.

I hope you enjoyed the challenge. Let me know how you did in the comments.

Answer Key

1-C, 2-N, 3-F, 4-J, 5-H, 6-A, 7-L, 8-D, 9-M, 10-B, 11-G, 12-K, 13-E, 14-I

About Carol A. Seidl

Serial software entrepreneur, writer, translator, and mother of 3. Avid follower of French media, culture, history, and language. Lover of books, travel, history, art, cooking, fitness, and nature. Cultivating connections with francophiles and francophones.


  1. Those engravings are wonderful!

  2. I got most of the quiz right, though a few baffled me at first — the guy in drawing 4 appears to be offering nothing at all (un prince nigérien déposé avec un scamme sur l’internette?). I guessed the chaudronnier as #10, but I think he’s missing from the answer key.

    Hate to think what the bench guy’s back must have felt like after lugging those around all day.

    I’m a little puzzled at argent des mannequins to announce wicker baskets. Eau de vie for alcohol? Well, maybe it seemed that way back then — people had tough lives. And it would surely not do to state one’s profession as marchand de fagots — not nowadays.

    How did you end up feeling about the new directed-course system at the Musée Carnavalet? I generally prefer to wander around at will, but I can see that having a designated sequence to follow ensures you won’t miss anything. The only case where it might be a problem is if you wanted to go back for another look at something you’d already seen.

    • I’m glad you asked about my final verdit. Overall, I think the museum is improved, especially for the uninitiated. You are not obligated to follow the prescribed course and you can backtrack. Perhaps they wanted people to understand that it was there for you to follow if you wanted. I could have easily missed it. Also, with COVID still in the air, there may be some value to sending all visitors on a similar route since it probably reduces the chance of a big build up in one area.

      Yes! “Argent des mannequins!” is indeed puzzling. Seems unlikely but the only thing I could come up with was either a warning that he’s unwilling to accept fake coins, or an invitation to pay with conterfeits? Neither option is very plausible.

      I think many of them must have had back issues. I was wondering how heavy that conical basket filled with soot might weigh. Also, carrying a big load of cherries in front of you, rather than behind, seems pretty brutal.

      And you win the grand prize for not only correctly guessing chaudronnier for #10 but also pointing out the omission. Thanks for being so thorough!

  3. Oh, and welcome back after the long absence! You’ve definitely been missed.

  4. So fascinating as usual, thanks for sharing these treasures

  5. I had fun with this! Thank you for sharing the artwork and experience. Seeing the picture of the gallery with white walls and rather sparse artifact placement, I had the same reaction you did – so glad you weren’t disappointed and found your favorites! Amazingly, I got all the match-ups right, even though I still don’t know what the heck is going on with the butter merchant!

  6. What a bright well-lit museum. I’m used to them being like mausoleums…

    • I often love bright and well-lit too. Such is the case with the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The Musée Carnavalet has many galleries with huge windows so you often have nice levels of light, even in rooms that have not been painted white.

  7. Such fun! 100 percent!

  8. I will save the quiz for another day. Flying tomorrow. (I know. Again! Brief hop to Colombia to visit my wife’s family…) I understand your feeling about the white paint and imposed route. That’s a new trend. Still, the new Carnavalet which I managed to see last year, is all right.
    Have you seen the new Cluny? Saw it this year. Very well done. Despite the obligatory circuit.
    All well? Your daughter well settled in GW?

    • I did get to see the new Cluny! It was my first trip to that museum. I’m glad that I went. There were many stunning pieces and impressive galleries. I have to admit to getting a bit tired of seeing countless renditions of either the crucifixion or the Virgin Mary. Such was medieval art.

      Yes. All kids are safely installed. Safe travels and enjoy Colombia.

      • You did. Great. Cluny is quite unique. True about medieval art. Not very profane. I wonder whether some did commission personal portraits, but it was probably forbidden by the church. I know that donators were represented in religious tryptics… Still, very interesting testimonies of the time. The hair, the dress code…
        Glad all kids are installed. And thank you, Colombia was nice (though short). Yet I must confess that I find travelling increasingly tiring. Endless queues and bureaucracy, and queues and queues. It’s a 4 hour flight. We left my sister-in-law’s house yesterday at 11AM, arrived here at 11pm. Crazy.
        But I guess it’s the price to pay.
        Au revoir Carole.

        • An 11-hour transit for a 4-hour flight does sound discouraging. Especially when it’s a short stay. Glad you enjoyed the visit, however.

          I’ve never been to South America and there are still so many places in Europe that I’d like to visit, I wonder if it will ever happen. I rule nothing out though. Ciao!

          • Yes, Europe is tempting still…
            (I’m thinking of recentering my travels to the US and Canada… Long travels are getting me tired. Age probably kicking in. LOL)
            A bientôt.

          • There’s certainly a lot to savor in North America. Most of it outdoors, however. 🙂

          • I did grad school in ‘Bama, as you probably know, the outdoors in the South, and surely in many places, is just beautiful. But I also like the cities. (Not Atlan’a), New York, San Francisco, Boston. I have in mind to explore more US cities in the future… Ann Arbor could be one.

          • Happy to show off our city as well as Detroit. Have you ever been to one of the Great Lakes? My fav is Lake Michigan. My favorite US cities are Chicago, Seattle, Savannah, and DC. Too much to do, too little time.

          • Not really. I’ve been South of the Mason-Dixon line extensively of course. East: New Yawk, Noi Je’see, Bos’on.
            West: California, San Francisco, basically.
            No Midwest, No North California, Oregon, Washington. And no great lakes. (I’ll take you up on that. )
            Actually, I did go to Detroit once, briefly to present the results of an international study to GM top management. It was quite impressive to be there. (Plus my GM client contact wrote songs for Diana Ross. An interesting combo.)
            And yes, too much to do, too little time.

  9. PS. Did you get my comment on GW?

  10. Too challenging for me but fun seeing the answers and comments.

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