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Sade - Attacking the Sun - Ambiance

Sade - Attacking The Sun

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Why you will love it?

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Alphonse Donation de Sade, also known as the Marquis de Sade. For the occasion, the Musée d'Orsay has put together an extraordinary collection of works by Goya, Delacroix, Dali, Ingres, Füssli, Rodin, Picasso and others that highlight Sade's influence on art and literature. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris
Line 12 - Solférino
Line C - Orsay

Sunday : 9:30 am - 18:00 pm
more less
Monday : Closed Tuesday : 9:30 am - 18:00 pm Wednesday : 9:30 am - 18:00 pm Thursday : 9:30 am - 21:45 pm Friday : 9:30 am - 18:00 pm Saturday : 9:30 am - 18:00 pm Sunday : 9:30 am - 18:00 pm
25 December

Our Insiders' Article


The word sadism, a neologism credited to Richard von Krafft-Ebing, was inspired by the Marquis de Sade, 18th century writer and philosopher whose works address the violent nature of man. Today, to mark the 200th anniversary of his death, the Musée d'Orsay has put together a stunning and very thorough exhibition. With a collection paintings, sculptures, photos and other mediums by the great masters such as Picasso, Man Ray, Rops, Rodin, Goya, Degas and Géricault, the exhibition is dedicated to the “Divine Marquis” and his influence on the world of art and literature.

Parisianist Fun Fact : Because of the violent and unconventional nature of his thoughts and writings, the Marquis de Sade spent several years in prison (including the Bastille!) as well as time in exile in Italy evading his sentence to death!


The exhibit Sade – Attacking the Sun is composed of a dozen rooms, each of which adhere to a particular theme, and is located on the ground floor of the Musée d'Orsay. The exhibit begins with a series of film clips presenting the Marquis de Sade's philosophy that broke definitively with the religious, moral, and social thinking of his time and eventually led to his exile and several condemnations to death. The paintings, photos, and sculptures that follow highlight Sade's influence on the great artists of the 19th and 20th centuries who were inspired to make visible through art the things that couldn't be said out loud. 

The Marquis

Alphonse Donatien de Sade, also called the Marquis de Sade, was born in 1740 at the Hotel de Condé in Paris (a hotel that comprised the space now enclosed between Rue de Condé, Rue Monsieur le Prince, Rue de Vaugirard and the crossroads of Odéon). His writings, dedicated to anathema, test the limits of society and the human body. Related to eroticism, his works evoke a depraved sexuality that is often linked to violent acts of cruelty. His principal works are The 120 Days of Sodom (1785) and Justine (1799).

Parisianist Fun Fact: Sade feared that The 120 Days of Sodom, which he considered to be his greatest achievement, would be confiscated and destroyed. Written in the Vincennes prison, he recopied it on scraps of paper while later imprisoned in Bastille which he rolled up and hid between two stones of his prison cell. Sade was transfered to another prison, but not his manuscript. Such a loss made Sade cry “tears of blood”. The manuscript was found before the storming of La Bastille prison. It was published in 1904 in Germany. The manuscript returned to France in September 2014.


Exploring themes of sexuality, violence, and religion, the Marquis de Sade's writings and visual works beautifully complement one another. Other works by philosophers influenced by Sade, such as Nietzsche, also engage with Sade's work through these themes. On display are some of the most violent and deranged pieces by artists from Sade's generation and by artists who came after him, including Goya, Picasso, Delacroix, Moreau, Böcklin, Ingres, Degas, Redon, Rops, Kubin, and Cézanne, just to name a few. There are even a few surrealist paintings (Dali) and photographs by Man Ray and Brassaï that attest to the Marquis' influence on mankind's violence and things unsaid. 


There are many reasons why you just can't miss Sade – Attacking the Sun. Reason number one: this exhibit offers an impressive collection of pieces by the great masters of painting, sculpture, and photography. Reason number two: this is an opportunity to learn more about Sade, a philosopher who is too often associated with unhealthy perversion. Reason number three: the scenography is very well done, plunging the visitor into semi-darkness while illuminating the pieces of art with spotlights. It is no surprise that the predicted volume of visitors is high until November (10-30 minute wait on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a two-hour wait on the weekends). In November and December the lines will be shorter. It should take less than 10 minutes to enter on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and in the evenings. 

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