A Collector of Saintes – The Dupuy Mestreau Museum

The Dupuy Mestreau Museum is housed in the Monconseil Hotel, built in 1738 in the city of Saintes, France. The museum is advertised as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ with about 3000 artifacts showcasing the cultural history of Saintes as defined by its collector. Large, airy rooms with high ceilings, and banks of nearly floor to ceiling windows flood the interior with light. It’s a beautiful setting for this diverse collection.

The collector was Cecile Guinot de Monconseil, wife of Etienne, Marquise de Monconseil who was the first owner of the hotel. Cecile set out to collect items that would trace the history of Saintes, though very few items have a provenance or even a description attached to them. Objects range from furniture and dishes, to clothing, shoes, jewelry, and accessories.

Upon entering the building you immediately climb the stairs to a landing where there is a bicycle and a single person palanquin. Further in, there are parquet wood floors and stenciled ceilings. There are several glass domes housing collections of taxidermy birds. There is a library filled with literary and technical works from the 18th-19th centuries. There are a few reconstructed rooms displayed, some with furniture pieces that I thought were novel, like this wine and port stand with built in bottle holders.

Wine stand
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heather Daveno

There is a Dish Room. This first dish, titled “The Tree of Love” was inspired by a 16th century engraving that was reproduced frequently during the 18th century; this one was manufactured in Saintes on August 4, 1772. The second is a dish of ‘rustic figurines’ that also became popular in the 18th-19th century, so much so that the style was often imitated. This one was made by Alfred Renleau in the 1890s, inspired by the glazed and enameled ceramics by Bernard Palissy, who originated the style in the early- to mid-1500s. There was an entire case devoted to this style.

"The Tree of Love" dish
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heather Daveno
Dish of rustic figurines
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heather Daveno

There’s a children’s corner, which includes a carriage, a ‘toddler walker’ and a child-sized spinning wheel. I tossed my hat into the photo of the spinning wheel for gauge.

A child sized spinning wheel
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heather Daveno

There is also an extensive clothing collection that includes a case of women’s regional headdresses that fills much of this room, and a small but incredible sampling of 18th century menswear.

Headdress close-up
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heather Daveno

The collections in this museum are so extensive that my review offers the briefest glimpse of what I saw there. I have posted additional photos of the collections and the building itself at Daveno Travels. Because of my fascination with historical fashions, I took specific interest in those items, which I have posted in a series on my textile website:

A Collector of Saintes: The Fashion Accessories…

A Collector of Saintes: The Shoes…

A Collector of Saintes: The Headwear…

A Collector of Saintes: 18th Century Menswear…

Address is 4 Rue Monconsell, 1700 Saintes. Look for a small Lucite sign mounted at the corner. The entrance is just beyond the carriage house which also holds a couple of artifacts.

Hours are posted on the Saintes Tourism website.

Admission is 3 Euros

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Heather Daveno

Heather Daveno hails from Seattle, Washington, where she works as an office manager by day and a self taught textile artisan by night. In her spare time she is a “hobby historian” and is currently researching the female side of her family history for a book she plans to write, titled: “The Matriarch Diaries.”

You can see her current textile projects at August Phoenix Mercantile and her travels at Daveno Travels.