Behind this humble name lies a charming, private mansion from the 18th century, home to diverse and captivating collections. Here is its story:
The private mansion of Jean-Baptiste Porchon
On the edge of the old Clagny lake, which adorned the Palace park belonging to Madame de Montespan (Louis XIV's famous mistress), a royal builder named Jean-Baptiste Porchon constructed this lovely mansion for himself in 1751. The owner's profession is actually reflected in the carved features of the children on the facade's pediment. Stylish and sophisticated, with a human, even intimate dimension, this little building is typical of the 18th century lifestyle, as described by Talleyrand: 'Those who have not lived before 1789 do not know the meaning of life's pleasures…'
Versailles' Municipal Museum
A century later, the mansion passed into the hands of Victor Lambinet, a magistrate at the court of Versailles, and his great-nephews bequeathed it to the town in 1921, on the condition that it would be transformed into a museum.
Versailles' Municipal Museum has existed since the 19th century. It was set up with pieces of art bequeathed to the town library by Versailles scholars, together with their rare book collections. Sharing the library buildings, the museum was called the Jean Houdon Museum, in memory of the famous sculptor from Versailles, who had various works held there. When the museum collections got too big for the space, the museum moved from Rue de l'Indépendance Américaine to the Lambinet mansion, where it opened its doors in 1932. Since then, it has expanded into the perpendicular wing, so today it has no fewer than 35 rooms!
Let's take a look at some of its treasures. In the part of the collections dedicated to Fine Arts, mainly located on the ground floor, the works of Jean-Antoine Houdon will grab your attention. The bare-headed bust of Voltaire, or the one of Rousseau in a French-style wig, or even that of La Fayette, reflect the close links between the sculptor and major figures of the Enlightenment period. But they also reflect the exceptional talent of the artist, who really makes these marble or plaster faces come alive: sunken eyes in perfect imitation of a gaze, parted lips ready to speak, movements of the head, etc.
Other great sculptors of the 18th century are also featured, with busts of Louis XVI by Augustin Pajou, and Marshal de Saxe by JB Lemoyne.
A good set of painted portraits accompanies this collection, including the works of illustrious artists such as René-Antoine Houasse, Louis Tocqué and Alexandre Roslin. In the paintings section, enthusiasts will be delighted to discover a fine collection of works from the Dutch Golden Age, and an extensive range of Post-Impressionist paintings, including many by Maximilien Luce.
Then, taking a stroll up to the first floor, visitors will discover the Decorative Arts collections, which fit perfectly in the lavish, boiserie-adorned rooms of this listed building. Bouquets of flowers, made from Vincennes porcelain, and Sèvres vases, reflect close ties with the famous royal manufacturer, brought to Louis XV's attention by Madame de Pompadour. Various pieces of stamped furniture: dressers, desks, chests of drawers and chairs illustrate the succession of styles throughout the 18th century, from Rococo curves to Neo-classical sternness, not forgetting the intermediate designs of the Transition period. The whole collection is put together seamlessly, to reflect the ambience of a wealthy couple's apartment in the 18th century.
A museum dedicated to the history of Versailles and the French Revolution
On the 2nd floor of the museum is a section entirely dedicated to the history of Versailles and the French Revolution. You will find a wealth of intriguing objects on display, such as the seal of a Lord of Versailles dating back many years, which reminds us that a village existed well before the royal appointment; ceramic tiles from the Porcelain Trianon, the precursor to Louis XIV's Grand Trianon; Easter eggs given to Louis XV's daughters; frock coat buttons painted with views of the groves in the Versailles gardens, to name but a few. But there are also lavish, rock crystal crosiers which belonged to the Abbesses at Maubuisson Royal Abbey, a stunning collection of apothecary jars from the Royal Hospital in Versailles, paired with an impressive set of silvery cutlery destined for the same institution. In short, it will impress even the most discerning visitor!
Since Versailles was the backdrop to the beginnings of the Revolution, a very extensive collection of objects related to this period is displayed in the rooms of the Lambinet Museum. Amongst the intriguing pieces, you will find Louis XVI's opening speech to the Estates General, printed on silk; ceramic tiles with revolutionary designs; a clock showing the 'decimal time' used for the French Revolutionary Calendar introduced by the Convention, and much more. There is a wide range of objects and paintings relating to Marat and Charlotte Corday, thanks to the interest of a scholar from Versailles named Charles Vatel. Next to visual artefacts, you will find, for example, a stunning, ivory darning egg, with a high-relief carving of the scene of Charlotte Corday's trial on the inside!
The Weapons Room is not to be missed, with its displays of magnificent pieces made in Noël-Nicolas Boutet's factory, which opened in 1793 in the old Grand Commun in the Palace of Versailles. Originally dedicated to supplying equipment for the Revolution armies, the factory mainly produced 'weapons of reward', on the recommendations of General Bonaparte, who was keen to promote the bravery of his men.
There are many more remarkable attractions in the Lambinet Museum which don't feature on this list – this is just a taster to invite you to discover these hidden treasures. Don't miss the temporary exhibitions, which are often an opportunity to show the more delicate pieces that are usually stored away ...