It used to be an impressive 19th Century mansion, but today it is a beautiful 21st century museum with collections of art, history and archeology. Located in Moulins, central France, Maison Mantin gives us an opportunity to peek into a lifestyle of the French bourgeoisie, just like its owner wanted.
Maison Mantin was built for a wealthy Frenchman, Louis Mantin. It was the work of Jean-Bélizaire Moreau and his son René-Justin Moreau, reputed local architects. They designed and built the Mantin palace in 1893 on the ruins of a 15th Century castle. Louis Mantin was an eccentric businessman, in love with natural history, arts and architecture.
Due to his well off position, he was able to collect different artworks such as paintings, sculptures and antique items, and his residence was equipped with the latest technology like electric light and flushing toilets. Among all the paintings he owned, there was one hung over the fireplace – a painting of a winking woman. It is assumed that it was an allusion on a 20-year affair he had with a married woman.
Unmarried and childless, Mantin died in 1905 at the age of 54. He wrote his last will and testament, declaring that he wanted his mansion to be closed and untouched for 100 years after his death and then opened as a museum.
Since it was known that he was obsessed with the passage of time, it wasn’t surprising at all. His wish was granted. Maison Mantin was closed for 100 years. It even survived the occupation of the German army unharmed.
After Mantin’s death, his house slowly fell into decay. After a century, when its doors were finally unlocked, a lot of people came to see if such a long period had left some marks. Although the interior was in a really bad condition, the house was just the same as it was when Mantin was alive. Spiders, bugs and thousands of insects were the new inhabitants though, but they were removed quickly.
Local authorities funded a refurbishment and around 30 experts started clearing away rot and mold. After a long and expensive renovation, the house was returned to its previous splendor. It was reopened in October 2010. Today, this astonishing museum contains a large number of art pieces which Louis Mantin had collected when he was traveling all around the world. Precious pieces include Egyptian relics, antique oil lamps, books, photographs, paintings, stuffed animals and a lot of unusual objects and charming details.