Animal conservation – c’est chic

If you happen to be visiting Paris, there’s a hidden gem of a museum that’s well worth a visit – whether or not you’re an animal lover. With the current fascination for taxidermy, cabinets of curiosity, natural history and animals in art, fashion and interiors, Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature is a fine example of authentic French heritage at its most stylish and contemporary.

Located in the Marais, the private museum was set up in 1964, by Francois and Jacqueline Sommer, founders of the Fondation de la Maison de la Chasse et de la Nature. The foundation’s aims are to support ethical hunting – in favour of the natural balance, and to display to the public the hunting related artworks and objets d’art collected by the couple.

Their artefacts are housed in the Francois Mansart designed Hotel de Guenegaud, which was opened to the public in 1967 after major renovation – with décor in the style of an 18th century collector’s home. Since 2002, the collection has also occupied the adjoining Hotel de Mongelas, where contemporary interiors make clever use of traditional materials, with hunting inspired decoration and fittings.

Francois Sommer’s vocation as a collector grew out of his love of rare books. He amassed a remarkable collection of old hunting treatises, before moving on to weapons and works of art featuring animals. There are paintings by Bruegel and Rubens, sculpture by Corot, Decamps and Vernet, alongside displays of hunting weapons such as cross bows and arquebuses, hunting horns, cutlery, crockery and a jaw-dropping array of trophies.

Each of the many rooms is dedicated to a particular type (or types) of animal, ranging from wolves and stags to dogs, horses, birds – and even monkeys. Of course, there’s a room devoted to wild boar, the animal reserved for the most experienced of hunters – and conferred almost mythical status in France: hardly surprising, since this ancestor of the domesticated pig has been the major food source and chief game animal of the country for over a thousand years.

As well as showing the contribution of hunting to civilization, the collections illustrate the evolution in the hierarchy of animals in Western societies. In the contemporary animal room, the privileged status enjoyed by pets is demonstrated, alongside the comparatively cruel treatment of commercially farmed animals. Originally perceived as a threat to mankind, dangerous animals are now seen as threatened.

Hunting was once considered a gentleman’s pastime – ‘the sport of kings’. But, whilst the history and spoils of hunting are preserved as fashionable art in the chic environs of this museum, the debate as to whether wild animals should be protected or destroyed continues…

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

10 thoughts on “Animal conservation – c’est chic

    April 2, 2011 at 09:25

    Zut alors! That’s quite a museum. I can’t see that getting an Arts Council grant in this country…

    April 2, 2011 at 09:52

    Only in France Susan, stuffing animals being a leisure activity they seem to revel in. How long, I wonder, does it take stuffing a rhinoceros and what happens to the spare bits, the innards, flogged to that Cambodian restaurant in the Rue Blanche no doubt.
    Are we sure it’s only animals? fifth down lh looks suspiciously like Mon General.

    April 2, 2011 at 10:15

    I pass this museum regularly and have always shied away from what I assumed was simply a celebration of huntin’, and indeed shootin’ and fishin’. It would appear that I was wrong. I shall amend this oversight forthwith. The fact that I choose to pass it being nonetheless on my way to the charcuterie of the world’s finest Jewish deli – Maison David in rue d’Ecouffe 75004 ( – can perhaps be ascribed at least in part to wilful denial.

    As for ‘stuffing animals’ check out the taxidermist Design & Nature at 5 rue d’Aboukir 75002. The website is

    john halliwell
    April 2, 2011 at 11:18

    It sounds a really fascinating place, Susan.

    The post reminded me that my illiterate grandfather was quite a versatile man: taxidermist, cabinetmaker, gamekeeper, upholsterer, philanderer – married three times, buried with two, who relied on my father to read to him love letters from Gladys and Lizzie etc. I once asked him: “Setting aside your womanising, which of your talents gave you greatest pleasure?” With a very ungrandfatherly scowl, he snarled “Get stuffed!” I left with a flea in my ear – probably picked up off the large stuffed grizzly in the corner – but less about my step grandmother. It was only after his death that I realised he had, in his wry manner, given me the answer.

    April 2, 2011 at 12:32

    Nige, it’s probably a matter of semantics – ditch the ‘hunting’ tag and adopt ‘natural history’ instead – I’m thinking of the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers in Oxford, which have recently undergone a major refurbishment and are well worth a visit too. Would imagine these receive some sort of government funding?

    Malty – the Rhino, bottom left, has more than a passing resemblance to a certain dictator currently in the news… no?

    Jonathon, you simply must visit this musuem if you’re in the area. There’s so much more to see than is mentioned in this post. Thanks for the link. I can also recommend the incredible taxidermy shop, Deyrolle in St Germain.

    Sounds like your grandfather was a real character, John!

    April 3, 2011 at 12:18

    Deyrolle looks remarkable. Perhaps it even has the edge over N&D. Or certainly takes things into other areas. Another one for the diary.

    April 3, 2011 at 19:35

    What a great place- thanks for uncovering it Susan!

    April 3, 2011 at 20:53

    You’re right, it is a gem of a museum. Did you notice the albino wild boar head that ‘talks’?

    @ Jonathon Green. I attempted to visit ‘Design & Nature’ a couple of days ago – it’s been replaced by a furniture shop!

  9. Gaw
    April 4, 2011 at 07:53

    Does it feature any victims of ‘friendly fire’, of which I imagine there are a lot given how French shooting is conducted? Perhaps a stuffed maire or a retired boulanger? Shame about the songbirds too – the French countryside sometimes sounds spookily quiet at dawn.

    April 5, 2011 at 09:45

    Curiously pomposa, though I’ve vague recollections of a talking pig, I’m surprised I didn’t capture it on video clip.

    No evidence of friendly fire – not even the odd ‘rosbif’, Gaw

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