Musée du Patrimoine & de la Dentelle
Pavillon Egler, 34 rue d’Aumale, 1, place Omer Vallon, 60500 Chantilly
Hours: 10:00 to 11:30 and 15:00 to 17:30
*** Open Wednesdays and Saturdays only ***
Admission Fee: 2.00 Euros
Tel: 03 44 58 28 44
Director: Jacques Guilleminot
The Chantilly lace museum was created by Marguerite Dembreville, founder of the Chantilly Municipal Cultural Center, and Odette Lazard, the Secretary General of the Center. It opened on April 12, 1985 in a building several blocks away from the present site. It now occupies three rooms in the Pavillion Egler, a former primary school turned residence. Examples of Chantilly porcelain are also shown alongside the lace. Currently the museum relies on an enthusiastic set of about a dozen volunteers. I was very fortunate to get a tour by docent Mme. Anne Le Moine, who having lived in Florida, speaks excellent English. I was also delighted to learn that the previous Wednesday (March 2, 2011), the museum had an opening for its newly finished remodeling efforts. The rooms are small, the exhibition material copious, but good improvements have been made in textile display and didactic presentation.
Every year the museum creates an exhibition theme – this year it is “Fabricants et Marchands de Dentelle á Chantilly, XVIIIéme siècle – XIXéme siècle”. The exhibition rooms are thus an amazing source of quality information on the Chantilly lace industry. An excellent monograph on the subject by Mlle Claude Dugas is available for sale. This is exactly the type of quality work that a local museum like this should promote.
Lacemaking is demonstrated on Wednesday, which I missed, but I did see some of the demonstration pillows. No actual Chantilly lace was being made, rather some simple beginning edges. There is one display of traditional equipment and thread – the first time I’ve ever seen original spools of black silk thread. The Chantilly pillow is a Normandy-style roller with a generous apron. What surprised me were the hooded bobbins; unlike German examples, the hood covers almost the entire shaft. There was only one example of the teardrop-shaped Bayeau bobbin. One bobbin winder is on display, looking much like what one finds in the Le Puy area.
There are outstanding pieces of lace shown, in particular the magnificent triangular shawls. Even more interesting is the series of pricked pattern strips for a shawl – 15 strips representing 14 on one side and the central piece. Which would make for a shawl of 29 strips. I was told (and this agrees with other statements in the literature) that about a dozen women would spend a year making a shawl like this. I was also told that students who worked more slowly would be given the shorter pieces, so that overall, everything would come out on schedule. Note, Michel Bouvot in Caen is selling a reproduction of a set of shawl patterns (
A number of pieces of Blonde were also on display, along with original manufacturer’s designs for both Chantilly and Blonde. A perennial question is how to tell the difference between products made in Chantilly, Bayeaux, Caen, and Belgium, particularly Grammont. It is still an area for research, but soon I’ll do a ‘lace of the month’ post with what little I know on the subject.
An excellent white Blonde shawl is on display, under glass (which makes photography a bit difficult). There are also numerous examples of original designs of both Chantilly and blonde lace, especially from the Landry factory.
The three rooms are loaded with both hand and machine made Chantilly and blondes, on display in vitrines, mounted on walls, and on manikins. An accurate reproduction of the dress worn by The Duchesse d’Aumale in the 1846 Winterhalter portrait is also on display – she lived in the Château de Chantilly. One could only wish that there were more space.
I must also make mention of Mme. Suzanne Raszewski, who with Claudette Bouvot has recently published “Blondes – Chantilly et Caen” (
). She is one of the few Chantilly lacemakers now practicing the art.
Since I visited on Saturday March 5th, the weather was cold and damp – it went right through my thin coat to the bone. I found myself wondering how the lacemakers kept their fingers warm. Please pay attention to the opening hours – I arrived by SNCF train from the Gare du Nord at 11:19 (quite an adventure trying to find the ticket booth at the Gare du Nord. Round trip ticket to Chantilly-Gouvieux was ~17 euros, took 53 minutes on the local, 38 minutes on the express). The museum is an easy walk from the railway station, but when they say it closes at 11:30, they really mean it. But that gave me time to get lunch and sample the amazing crème Chantilly. And also to walk around the Château de Chantilly, which houses the magnificent Musée Condé, advertised “as good as the Louvre but much less crowded”.
As I was walking around the town I saw the magnificent building on the left, which I first thought was the Château. Turns out it is the Grandes Écuries (Great Stables). Legend has it that Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon, Prince of Condé believed that he would be reincarnated as a horse after his death, and had the stables built so he would have somewhere suitable to live. Well, whatever happened, Chantilly is a great equine center.
The real Château is on the right. Both are within easy walking distance from the lace museum.
Both these buildings were used as sets in the 1985 James Bond film “A View to a Kill”.