It seems rather perverse to visit a museum to whose subject I am entirely opposed. For example, I am never likely to visit a museum devoted to the life and work of Nigel Farage, although… now I come to think about it, I might be prepared to pay good money to see Nigel stuffed and hung on a wall.
The museum in question is the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature at 62 Rue des Archives, Paris, which is devoted to hunting. The collection, once the property of François and Jacqueline Sommer, is housed in a beautiful Parisian mansion, the Hotel de Guenegaud, in the 3rd arrondissement. The Sommers are described as “avid hunters and conservationists”. The two descriptions seem rather at odds with one another. A bit like saying “avid Remainers and UKIP supporters”.
How would I describe the collection? Eclectic. Eccentric. The ceiling in one room is comprised of owl’s feathers for goodness sake. Whilst traditionally mounted hunting trophies and monumental taxidermy do proliferate, it would be wrong to dismiss this as nothing more than a museum of stuffed animals. In a strange way, the collection does celebrate nature; respects nature, even down to the décor, where the bronze furnishings and fittings have been styled into the irregular, protruding forms of vines and branches and deer’s antlers.
There are nature-themed artworks, both classical and contemporary, and a formidable array of weaponry from a time before the World Wide Fund for Nature was so much as a twinkle in Prince Philip’s eye.
Inside the museum you do feel as though you have stepped back in time: as Parisian museums go it is relatively quiet––select; and, as a concept, it is hard to believe that it will be replicated in our current, more environmentally-conscious society, but it is all the more curious and worth visiting for that.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny can’t get the image of a stuffed Nigel Farage out of her head.