Friday Heirloom 98: Château de Monte-Cristo (Home of Alexandre Dumas), France

Friday Heirloom 98: Château de Monte-Cristo (Home of Alexandre Dumas), France

Check out the Highlights of April here

What causes do you fight for every day?

IMG_4920.JPG.JPG

View of the Moorish salon at Château de Monte-Cristo

If it’s true that we live for a reason, what is your purpose?

Through writing and photography, I try to help make museums accessible to more people. Everyone regardless of their age, roots, skin color, sexual and religious orientations (to name a few) should feel welcome in museums. Everyone, with their own stories, background and views of the world. My work is about helping build better museums for a better world, and encouraging people to visit them.

IMG_4871.JPG.JPG

Château de Monte-Cristo in all its splendour

One way I try to do this is through museum-going. Visiting museums and sites of historical relevance is my favorite way of both learning about the state of the museum field around me and passing that knowledge on to other people.

IMG_4942.JPG.JPG

A view of Château d’If, Dumas’ writing cabinet

So it always surprises me when I realize that some of the most beautiful French heritage sites are egocentric. What do I mean by that?

IMG_4872.JPG.JPG

Alexandre Dumas (father) by Yves Le Boursicaud

Last week my friend and I decided to finally visit Alexandre Dumas’ home and gardens in the Yvelines district of Paris.

Some time ago I would be stunned by such opulence and beauty, but here, this time, I had very contradictory feelings…

IMG_4875.JPG.JPG

Dumas’ sister, Jeanine, by Jacques Émile Blanche

Let me explain. Alexandre Dumas was a French writer who lived in the 19th century. In 1844, at the peak of their fame and after publishing The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte-Cristo, they decided to build a Château in Port-Marly that could serve as a home as well as a writing cabinet.

That’s how Château de Monte-Cristo and Château d’If came about in 1847, with their gardens à l’anglaise full of ornamental rocks and waterfalls.

IMG_4878.JPG.JPG

Living room at Monte-Cristo

Château de Monte-Cristo is stunning and reflects the owner’s history, personality and literary inspiration. Knowing Dumas and the way they treated women (standard practices at the time, I have nothing against the writer), I can’t help but notice extravagance and egocentrism…

IMG_4873.JPG.JPG

One of the ground floor’s windows

Dumas’ personal motto was “I love those who love me”, and you can feel it throughout the property, starting from the photos and busts in their home to the inscription of their monograms, which I saw a few times.

IMG_4901.JPG.JPG

Family photos and portraits

IMG_4879.JPG.JPG

A bust of Alexandre Dumas

On the first floor is la crème de la crème: a salon decorated in moorish style, with stucco sculptures and arabesques. They were crafted by Tunisian artisans and some of the pieces were brought to France by Dumas after their travels.

IMG_4902.JPG.JPG

IMG_4906.JPG.JPG

Views of the beautiful Moorish salon

It is said that Dumas loved to entertain friends at Monte-Cristo. He also entertained  (numerous) female conquests and organised fabulous parties. They had many pets, too, including monkeys and even a vulture.

IMG_4880.JPG.JPG

IMG_4889.JPG.JPG

Bright rooms and altars at Monte-Cristo

If all this is true for Château de Monte-Cristo, how about Château d’If, the gothic castle that was also built by Dumas? We know it was a place of study, where the writer retreated for hours to be in solitude. Its facades are carved with titles of the books they wrote, and decorated with sculptures of some of their fictional heroes.

Definitely another example of “self-centeredness”…

IMG_4970.JPG.JPG

A view of Château d’If’s entrance 

The settings are definitely romantic, and life is good… until 1849 when, pursued by his many creditors, Dumas decided to sell the property (he was still allowed to live at Monte-Cristo before he left for exile in Belgium, in 1851).

IMG_4927.JPG.JPG

Some of the women in Dumas’ life

Monte-Cristo makes me think about some of the relevant questions we, as a society, should ask ourselves, including the ones on whiteness and feminism. Walking through Dumas’ home I felt the weight of the past on my shoulders, wondering what I’d want to be remembered for.

One thought on “Friday Heirloom 98: Château de Monte-Cristo (Home of Alexandre Dumas), France

Leave a Reply