Getting a feel for a city begins with a map and some useful bits of information to help establish a sense of place.
The city of Limoges is one of the 13 communities within the Haute-Vienne department, which is part of the larger Limousin province, the sixth-largest forested region of France.
Saint Martial introduced Christianity to the region in the 13th century. Limoges was officially united with kingdom of France by Henry IV. “The Black Prince”, a.k.a. the son of England’s Edward III, burnt and plundered the city in 1370.
There is perhaps no better way to discover the character of city’s people than thought their folktales. Those from the Limousin tend to be blunt and to the point, conveyed dramatically in very short sentences.
Limoges is part of the Haute-Vienna, known as land of grass, which when combined with the gently rolling hills creates the perfect pastureland for sheep and cattle. In fact, the Haute-Vienna has become one of the two most important regions for sheep breeding in all France. Charming medieval houses and numerous ponds can also be seen; the Haute-Viene boasts more than 1,751 ponds, most of them larger than two and a half acres.
The Cathedral of Saint-Etienne was begun in the 13th Century and completed 1327. With its Roman and Gothic architecture, it contain 14th century tombs and 15th century stained glass windows.
The Saint Michel des Lions Church, built from the 14th to 16th centuries, houses relics of Saint-Martial, as well as beautiful stained-glass windows from the 15th century. Other historic attractions include the Episcopal Palace, built in the 18th century; the Saint Pierre du Queyroix Church, constructed from the 12th-16th centuries; and the Saint Etienne and Saint Martial Bridges, dating from the 13th century.
Principal industries, in addition to porcelain and enamel arts, include cattle- and sheep-raising, leather-making, tanning, electrical products, foundries, textiles, chocolates, candies and brick manufacturing.
Created in 1845 by the Prefect Morisot, whose daughter was the famous painter Berthe Morisot, the Adrien Dubouché Museum in Limoges is known around the world for its fine collection of glass and ceramics, and, specifically, for it’s porcelain.
Adrien Dubouché, a successful businessman who was managing director of the Bisquit-Dubouché cognac company in Jarnac, was named museum director in 1865.
“Dubouché was born in the Limousin and remained very attached to the area,” says Chantal Meslin-Perrier, who has been curator of the museum since 1988. “Erudite and worldly, he dedicated all of his free time and part of his personal wealth to expanding the museum’s collection”
Dubouche himself donated over 4,000 ceramic pieces, glass and enamels, among which are two prestigious collection: the Albert Jacquemart, which Dubouché bequeathed in 1875; and the Paul Gasnault, donated in 1881. To thank Dubouché, the municipality asked the Council of State that the museum be renamed in his honor.
“Dubouché’s enthusiasm and his lively personality allowed him to befriend many in the world of ceramics,” Madame Meslin-Perrier explains. “These personal assets led to numerous gifts to the museum.” The museum so grew in notoriety, the government deemed it important enough to take it over in 1881.
Today, the museum houses 12,000 ceramic and glass objects. At the center of the collection is the most beautiful and comprehensive collection of Limoges porcelain in the world. Other notable collections within the museum are the Chinese ceramics from Tang period (19th century); European faïence of the 17th and 18th centuries; and European soft-paste porcelain (porcelains tenders)
“Afrien Dubouché was a modern man who assembled a contemporary collection, which became one of the most important French ceramic treasuries of the 19th century,” adds Madame Meslin-Perrier. “we are deeply indebted to him for the legacy he has left us.”
Also notable is the museum’s collection of 400 glass pieces from the 16th to 20th centuries, reminders of the importance of the “arts du feu” of “arts of the fire” tradition in Limoges.
by Marina Chernyak
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