Curiosity of a Prince exhibition


The Versailles municipal library and the Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac museum exhibit at the Central Library some fifty objects from the ethnographic office of the Count of Artois.

This exhibition sheds new light on the birth of a formidable collection of objects from around the world. It originates from the ambition and curiosity of a prince, Charles-Philippe of France, Count of Artois, younger brother of King Louis XVI. He acquired from 1785 various private funds in order to constitute a library and a cabinet of naturalistic specimens and exotic objects to serve the education of his sons, following a practice widespread in the royal and aristocratic families of Old regime. These collections were installed on the eve of the Revolution in the private mansion of the Marquis de Sérent, governor of the Duke of Angoulême and the Duke of Berry, located rue des Reservoirs in Versailles. They include the natural history cabinet set up in the 18th century by the commissioner of the Navy Denis-Jacques Fayolle, and are placed in his custody. During the Revolution, the emigration of the Marquis de Sérent and that of the future Charles X led to the confiscation of the cabinet d'Artois which integrated the national heritage in 1792. It was transferred to the Palace of Versailles, mixed with other revolutionary seizures, then installed in the brand new municipal library of the city in 1806. Since then, the fund has continued to be enriched by donations, experiencing various uncertainties until its deposit in Paris where it is still found: more than 500 American and Asian objects, Oceanians and Africans are now kept at the Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac museum, around fifteen residing in the municipal library of Versailles.

The history of this collection, whose objects were deemed worthy to arouse the curiosity and judgment of the princes, then to integrate the national collections for the education of citizens, echoes that of the printed and manuscript collections of the Listed municipal library, the original core of which comes from revolutionary confiscations.

The exhibition traces the exceptional journey of this collection through history, following the milestones in the construction of French museums in the 19th century. It immerses the visitor in the First French Colonial Empire, the history of exploration and collection, that of the gaze of the Other and opens them up to the contemporary issues of these objects from the past, in particular thanks to the gaze of the partners. of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma on a selection of exceptional items.

General information

Mental disabilityVisual disabilityAccessible for wheelchairs with assistance
Compulsory health pass


From 18/09 to 11/12/2021
Opening hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 1 pm and 6 pm. On Saturday between 10 am and 6 pm.
Closed Monday and Sunday.


Adult: 5 €.

Contact details

Curiosity of a Prince exhibition
Bibliothèque Municipale de Versailles
5 rue de l'indépendance américaine
78000 Versailles