Musée Déchelette

Joseph Déchelette (*8 January 1862, Roanne) was born into a wealthy family of industrialists and after studies at Saint-Chamond, close to Saint-Étienne, under guidance of the order of La Société de Marie (SM) (Marists), began his working life as a salesman in the family business. However, the passion of archeology, to which he had been initiated as a teenager by his uncle, quickly took over though he continued to work for the family business until 1899. In 1884, he joined Diana, archaeological and historical society located in Montbrison (Loire), which aims to identify and study the antiquities and monuments of the Forez region, south of Roanne. He became inspector on behalf of the French Archaeological Society. From 1892 until his death he was curator of the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology of Roanne. In 1899, Joseph Déchelette finally abandoned working for his father's company to focus exclusively on prehistoric archeology. Freed from professional constraints, he started writing books between 1908 and 1914 publishing all volumes of the Handbook of prehistoric archeology, Celtic and Gallo-romaine. In 1914, after the outbreak of the Great War, he asked, despite his advanced age, an assignment at the front to fill the gaps left by the battle of the Marne. Captain in the 298th Infantry Regiment, he is killed two months after the war began on October 3, 1914 – aged only 52. His name is inscribed in Paris’ Pantheon, among the 560 writers died for France. His memory and his works are kept in the Museum.

The museum, founded in 1844, was later renamed in his honour:'Le musée de Beaux-arts et d'Archéologie Joseph Déchelette'. It was installed in 1923 in the former Valencia hotel Minardière that Déchelette had bought in 1896, in which he had built a huge library. His widow gave it to the city of Roanne. She continued to live on the ground floor of the hotel until her death, in 1957.

Before entering the museum first a work of art is to be encountered, a sculpture by Hanneke Beaumont (, called ‘Bronze no 32 … Ou la terre dont l’Artiste extrait son Oeuvre’ (The clay (out) of which the artist extracts his/her oeuvre). She is of Dutch nationality, so we are slightly chauvinistic, but it’s beautiful all the same.

The first floor is dedicated to ceramic works. This picture shows one of the many display cases. They’re all really worth looking at – frankly more than we expected.

Biased as one tends to be when seeing a familiar name we pictured this little attractive flask. A ‘bouteille’, made at Nevers, second half of the 18th century. The name of the first owner is anyone’s guess…

‘L’Arbre d’Amour’ – the tree of love. Dating from 1784, according to the text at the bottom of this plate. We did not write down any details, so enjoying the picture is all we can offer.

A gorgeous little statue of Saint Barbara. She became the patron saint of artillerymen and is also traditionally the patron of armourers, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners and anyone else who worked with cannons and explosives. She is invoked against thunder and lightning and all accidents arising from explosions of gunpowder. She is venerated by Catholics who face the danger of sudden and violent death in work. The Spanish word santabárbara, the corresponding Italian word Santa Barbara, and the obsolete French Sainte-Barbe signify the powder magazine of a ship or fortress. It was customary to have a statue of Saint Barbara at the magazine to protect the ship or fortress from suddenly exploding. She is also the patron of the Italian Navy.

Description: ‘Fontaine d’applique et son meuble d’appui en chêne’. We understood it’s a reservoir containing water with a sort of sink underneath, all ceramic and attached to an oak cupboard. Fabricated in Sébastien Nicolas’s workshop at Roanne and dating from the end of the 18th century. We forgot whether there’s a sort of tap on the reservoir. There must have been.

Several plates called ‘plat à barbe’ were on display. We, well in any case one of us (no guessing, please), thought this design to protect a bearded person (mostly male, isn’t it?) from spilling food into the beard while eating. Wrong, utterly wrong! It’s an old fashioned (really?) oval hollow notched plate, used by a barber when soaping the customer’s chin. Of course! ((Saint?) Pierre, plassard, plossard???? What was said about him in 1786? Please help us, French-language-expert!)

God support/pillar of the nation'. Or something similar. It’s an absolutely charming holy water mini reservoir

The paintings are concentrated on the second floor. Here’s a sort of general view, secretly made when the (only) ward was not looking. It is, we have to admit, forbidden to make pictures inside the museum – using flashlight, that is (we think). Our camera automatically flashes; we have no idea how to suppress that… (Read the manual, fathead!) The next four pictures are all scans, made from pictures we bought from the museum’s shop. No fake though, all of it can be found inside the museum.

Jean Puy (1876 – 1960) was a post-impressionist painter from Roanne, part of the Fauvism-movement. Fauvism is the style of les fauves (French for "the wild beasts"). See

As Puy is a thoroughbred 'Roannais' the museum has a part that’s dedicated to him – and him alone. This is one of his paintings on display. There’s more, a lot more. Google 'Jean Puy' and, after that, 'Images' and you will be occupied for another hour or so.

A touch of chauvinism again. The museum has a painting of the Dutch painter Cornelis Gerritsz. Decker (Haarlem, 1643 – Haarlem, 1678) on display, too. It’s called ‘Chaumière au bord d’une rivière’. In proper Dutch : ‘(Armoedig) huisje aan de rivier’. He painted this scene in countless variations.

There’s another one, Simon (Symon) Kick (Delft, 1603 – Amsterdam, 1652). This painting, ‘Scène de corps de garde’ (‘Tafereel van lijfwachten’) is attributed to him.

African art is to be found on the third floor. This cannot, admittedly, attract our undivided attention. Therefore we limit ourselves to just one picture. Sorry!

There’s a lot more but we did not give much attention to all the stuff that was excavated and dates from the Iron Age. It is simply not our cup of tea to look at very old pieces of metal and half a vase that is reassembled from dug up fragments. Therefore the finishing picture is one of the museum-building as seen from its garden. We have not visited the garden and even wonder if that is possible at all. The picture gives, however, a good idea of what Déchelette’s wife bequeathed, apart from the building's contents, to the community of Roanne. Bye for now.