Aspects of Grenoble: the Dauphinois Museum

Dauphinois Museum, Musée dauphinois, Grenoble, France

A little way up the slopes of the Bastille is the 17th century Convent of St Mary.  Since 1968, this charming building has housed an eclectic collection which looks at the history of the Grenoble region, known until 1790 as Dauphiné.  At that point the region was divided and it now covers the departments of Isère, Drôme and Hautes-Alpes.

From 1906 to 1968 the museum was in a convent in the lower part of town, but they decided to move to larger premises – coinciding the relocation with the city’s hosting of the Winter Olympics.  Only 5% of the objects owned by the museum are ever on display, which is a depressing thought, but it does explain why they choose to do regular exhibitions rather than have a set of permanent displays.

View from a platform of the Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

I was so relieved to finally get to the museum after walking up the longest flight of stairs I’ve ever had the misfortune of being forced to climb that I didn’t take a picture of the outside of the building, but below are the cloisters, where you can sit as you try and cool down – with the help of icy cans from the drink machines inside.  Assuming you visit on a ridiculously hot day, as I did.

The remains of the cloisters of the Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Dedication to Saturn, “Decimus Decmanius Caper had this made”, Roman era, in the cloisters of the Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

We started at the top of the building, and saw a longish-term exhibition on winter sports.  As a non-skier, it didn’t do much for me, but it was entertaining to see old skiing outfits and flimsy century-old skis.

View of the room on skiing, Dauphinois museum, Grenoble, France

Amazing skiing outfits from the (too recent) past, Dauphinois museum, Grenoble, France

Skis on show at the Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Telecabin, 1956, from the cable car of St-Nizier-du-Moucherotte, Vercors, Isère, aluminium and wood, dismantled in 2002, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

More interesting, for me, was the gallery on life in the region around Grenoble.  Life was obviously bleak in the mountains and some of the daily struggles were shown through evocative displays and genuinely fascinating objects.  The very basic living conditions of people in this area until quite recently was a surprise, and an important reminder of how good we have it in the hyper-privileged society we Europeans live in today.

Shame about the weird display cages though…  A bit distracting and quite tricky to photograph around.

Wooden lantern, 1765, Queyras, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Canes from 19th/20th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Cow collar, beginning of 19th century, Serres, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Harrow, Dauphinois museum, Grenoble, France. It was attached to a mule and used in spring to turn over the still snowy ground.

Mobile cabin of a shepherd, 19th/20th century, Vercors, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Dog collars, 19th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France. The spikes were to help defend the dog against wolves and bears.

Bread stamps, with religious motifs and initials, 18th century-19th century, mainly from Queyras, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France. Making bread involved the entire community. The harvest was collected and the heads were threshed, with the stalks being kept for thatching and basket weaving. The rest was fodder or stable-litter. After threshing, the grain was winnowed. Some was taken to the mill and the rest was put in grain chests for use in spring. In places like Villard d’Arene where firewood was scarce, bread was baked only once a year. The heads of the families met to decide how the baking was to be organised. The day before, the dough was prepared in each home, and once the yeast had been added, it was left to rise and then divided into loaves, each of which was marked with the family’s stamp and carried to the bakehouse. Pies, gratins and stews were then cooked close to the door of the oven.

Butter and cheese making equipment, 19th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Ground floor of a house from St Véran, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Spinning wheel and wool, 18th – 20th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Detail at the top of the spinning wheel, 18th – 20th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Cupboard, 1660; chair, 19th century; wool reel, spinning wheel, ornate box and lace drum, 18th century; chair, 1791, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Beds from 1801 and 1776, lace drum and ornate box, 18th century, chair, 1791, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Model of the Chalet de Bourin built in 1894 at 2000m altitude, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France.  Being built into the hill, the (real) chalet was able to survive snow and avalanches.

Grain store, 18th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Dresser, 1682, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

At dinner, table, 19th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

School desk, beginning of 20th century, with 19th century objects, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Teaching French old style, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Cotton bonnets from the 19th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Lace drum, 17th- 18th century, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Lace drum, 18th century, Saint-Véran, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Automaton, end of 18th century, Dauphinois museum, Grenoble, France

Automaton, end of 18th century, Dauphinois museum, Grenoble, France

Smuggling bottles, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France. Communities on both the French and Italian sides of the Alps have always been close, sharing dialects and culture.  Both also earned money smuggling alcohol, matches, tobacco and coffee – and they easily outwitted customs officials thanks to bottles like these.

Charity box, 1726, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France. This was kept in a church and there are three holes for donations of barley, oats, and rye.

Salt box, 1763, Queyras, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Salt box, 1621, Chateau-Queyras, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

The temporary exhibition for our visit was a celebration of the 1969 Grenoble Winter Olympic Games.  There was a fair amount of detail about the games, which basically went over my head, but some kids seemed to be enjoying the experience as we walked around.

Flag of the Grenoble Olympic Games, 1968, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

The German team’s Pilz Super Combi Luge for two, 1968, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Official emblem of the Grenoble Games, 1965/6, collage by Roger Excoffon, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France.  Excoffon was a major figure in post-war graphics. He designed the emblem, the pictograms and local road signs.

Official Emblem of the Grenoble Games, 1967, poster by Roger Excoffon, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

What did interest me was the amazing range of tat and official memorabilia that was produced – particularly fascinating was the creation of Shuss.  So – the official mascot for the Grenoble Games was supposed to be Dof – this fellow:

Dof, the official mascot of the Grenoble Games, 1968, designed by Jean-Claude Poirier, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Dof made sense as a mascot.  He was a dolphin.  The dolphin – or in French, dauphin – gave its name to the Dauphinois region of France.  But, alas, no one liked Dof.  People preferred this dude:

Shuss the unofficial mascot of the Grenoble Games, 1968, designed by Aline Lafargue of the Paris based Films et Promotion, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Shuss, and his dynamic skiing style, appealed to the public and he in effect, made himself the real mascot of the games.  And, perhaps more importantly, started the trend for the Olympics to have cutesy little mascots.  And you can see why he was so inspirational.  I think.

A far larger model of Shuss, the mascot of the Grenoble Games, 1968, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

But look at all this memorabilia!

Grenoble Olympic themed wrapping paper, 1968, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Official paper plates and cups of the Winter Games, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Official cups, spoons and sugar for the Winter Games, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Hats and wool for the Winter Games, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Cigarettes and matches for the Winter Games, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Supermarket goodies advertising the Winter Games, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

So, because one of the floors was shut when we went, the final area we could explore was in the basement – a striking reminder of the building’s original role as a monastery.  It also has links to St Francis de Sales and St Jane Frances de Chantal, two fascinating figures of an era that saw a growing Protestant following and problems within the Catholic church.  They set up the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary in 1610 in nearby Annecy, which was aimed at taking in those who were too sickly or too old to be accepted as nuns elsewhere.  They set up their fourth nunnery in Grenoble.

The Visitation Chapel, which is hidden at the bottom of the museum building, is an expectedly grand Baroque gem, created as part of the celebrations in 1662 for the beatification of St Francis de Sales.  

Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

The altar in the Visitation Chapel, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Detail of God at the top of the Altar in the Visitation Chapel, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Cute cherub peeking out under the coat of arms at the base of the altar, Visitation Chapel, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Nativity scene, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

St Francis de Sales being carried (somewhat clumsily) to heaven, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

St Francis de Sales and St Jane Frances de Chantal overseeing construction of the convent, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Attractive face in the decoration of the Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

St Francis de Sales before a king, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

The body of St Francis de Sales lying in a church, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

A dark corner of the Visitation Chapel, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

A nun in a roundel, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Crucifixion, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

A foliage lady brandishing a palette, Visitation Chapel, 1662, Toussaint Largeot, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

And to finish, a random Last Supper, with a thoughtful Judas at the front there.

Last Supper, 1679, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

Last Supper, 1679, Dauphinois Museum, Grenoble, France

So In Summary

Bearing in mind that it was an extremely hot day when we visited the museum, and bearing in mind that the building wasn’t (noticeably) air-conditioned, the fact that we managed to have a good time exploring the collection was quite a feat.  Because it looks at the history of the Dauphinois region, it nicely complements the other museums in Grenoble, and it is very nicely done.  And the Visitation Chapel is really worth a visit by itself.

Further Information

Entry is free to the museum.

https://musees.isere.fr/musee/musee-dauphinois

How To Get There

It is quite a schlep from the train station to the main heart of town.  I recommend getting trams or buses.  Of course, I was there during a heatwave, so perhaps the walk wouldn’t have been so arduous at other times, but still, here is a link to the local transport site: https://www.tag.fr

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