The charming Place des Vosges is off Paris' beaten shopping path. It is Paris' oldest square and has been home to seven kings. Some of Paris' trendiest addresses are in its 36 matching colonnaded buildings, with beautiful red and gold facades.
Place des Vosges is primarily residential but has fabulous boutiques and antique shops beneath the square's protective colonnades and along the adjacent Rue des Francs Bourgeois and other side streets. Here are some highlights:
Italian designer Popy Moreni (No. 13), a Paris resident for 25 years, offers dramatic fashions, including black lace stretch blouses ($200), purple velvet coats with gold sequins down the back ($800), four-color fake-fur coats, silk and satin skinny camisoles to be worn with silk and satin skinny slacks, and velvet "popcorn" dresses ($450).
Katlas (No. 17) is a gallery featuring tile paintings by Prevert ($900 and up), plus works by a regular stable of painters including Farelle, Rampelberg, Beszie and others. Primitive country scenes by Forest are especially appealing.
Mythes et Legendes (No. 18) is the domain of antique dealer Michel Cohen, an expert in artifacts from ancient civilizations to the Renaissance. The expensive collection is eclectic, from a 2nd-Century Roman stone head to a 17th-Century German offering plate. Museum-quality furniture has secret compartments and other unusual features.
Dishes and Dolls
Les Deux Ophelines (No. 21) has 19th-Century objects including dishes (sets for $50 and up), dolls ($8 and up), furniture, linens, prints ($5 and up) and antique umbrellas ($12 and up), plus lovely and moderately priced antique wood and bronze forks.
Thiphaine (No. 21) features inexpensive brocante and objets d'art, furniture, linens and tableware from the 19th and 20th centuries. The inventory comes from all over the world and provides an amusing browse.
Fanny (No. 21) has great buys in antique and used clothing. Top labels (with price tags in the vicinity of $10) peek out from the racks. There are delightful little baubles ($2 and up) for wrists and fingers, too.
Galerie Medicis (No. 23) specializes in contemporary watercolors, especially landscapes and still lifes, by Marcel Gendre, Ogier and other artists. Prices begin at about $600.
The walls of Jardin de Flore (No. 24) are adorned with magnificent hand-colored prints ($75 and up) made from 18th-Century plates. The print collection includes the Egyptian Birds of Savigny as well as prints of flowers, plants and architectural drawings.
There are also facsimiles of ancient books, done with exceptionally fine printing on handmade paper and bound in leather. Look for large print books and magnificent three-foot diameter globes (created in 1693 for Louis XIV) showing ancient maps of the world or astrological markings (about $350 and up).
L'Antan (No. 24), Pierre Lavergne's antique shop, is in a building dating from 1604. The shop's expensive collection includes French furniture, painting and objets d'art from the 17th and 18th centuries, including Regency, Louis XIV and Louis XV pieces. Canvases of 17th-Century French court painter Pierre Gobert sell for about $1,500 and up.
Librarie Sylvie (No. 26) is an intense old bookshop with volumes of new and used books, including magnificent coffeetable books about France and art and illustrated childrens' books ($9 and up). There are also some rare 18th-Century history books, mostly about Paris and journalism, but no first editions.
Roger Cugnet's cavernous antique shop (No. 28) appears a bit gloomy but is filled with treasures, including 18th-Century furnishings from France and Italy. There are large armoires ($500 and up) and bronzes ($200 and up), plus French, Italian and Flemish paintings. All pieces have been repaired and/or restored.
Rue du Pas de la Mule extends off one corner of Place des Vosges. At No. 6, Andre Bissonnet has fabulous antique musical instruments, chairs and assorted music stands, from the 17th to 19th centuries. The instruments, many with mother-of-pearl inlay, are exquisite in look and sound. Andre Bissonnet will sell only to people who truly appreciate their priceless nature, but everyone can look.
On the other side of Place des Vosges, Rue des Francs Bourgeois is a narrow street lined with fine shops. Carnavalette (No. 21) categorizes its collection of 19th-Century engravings ($8 and up) by subject: animals, birds, flowers, soldiers, fashion and political cartoons. There are illustrated books, caricature magazines and Sem caricatures ($50 and up) from the turn of the century to the 1920s. Old greeting and post cards ($1 and up) are great buys.
Lucienne Cella (No. 2) shows expensive and exquisite tapestries from the late 17th to the late 19th Century, as well as beautiful smaller needlepoint pieces and an array of top-quality Caucasian rugs.