Compiègne (Oise), National Carriage and Tourism Museum

"Temporarily" inaugurated at the Château de Compiègne in 1927, the National Carriage and Tourism Museum met the wishes of enthusiasts and particularly professionals in carriage bodywork who sought to save exemplary horse-drawn vehicles from all time periods, backgrounds, styles, carriage types, along with a few survivors of the early days of the automobile, in order to depict the bodywork profession and retrace the history of locomotion through the ages, from the beginning of carriage driving to the appearance of the automobile.

The museum houses three large sets of vehicles: horse-drawn carriages, the first automobiles and cycles. With some one hundred horse-drawn vehicles, including some twenty sleighs, the National Carriage and Tourism Museum positions itself at the top of French collections and museums due to the number of carriage and also, above all, to their quality.

The collection is mainly made up of gala and town carriages, along with several travelling and sport carriages.

The oldest carriages date back to the 18th century and form a group of a dozen outstanding pieces: a large, travelling coach with highly pronounced contours, which bears rare testimony to Spanish bodywork during the mid-18th century and served King Ferdinand VII in 1808 during his exile from Madrid in Bayonne and then in Valençay; a beautiful French coach decorated with mythological figures painted on an aventurine background (circa 1760); two magnificent, neo-classical gala coaches built in Bologna and decorated with paintings by the master Mauro Gandolfi (it is noteworthy that artist placed his signature and the date 1789 on the left door of statesman Caprara's town coach; a large, highly elegant gala brougham decorated with paintings in grey tones on a midnight blue, thus representing the Muses draped in classical dress.

A second smaller group depicts the most innovative aspects of bodywork in the First Napoleonic Empire, with its search and transcription of aerodynamics in volumes and perfectly geometrical curves and profiles. This modernist flourish is characterised by cars with such round bodywork that they are called "ball carriages". Typical of the ball aesthetic, three coupés and a town coach bear witness to manufacturers' extraordinary technical prowess, exhibiting creativity while leading at the forefront of modernity.

The last and most numerous group is made up of coaches, broughams, landau, barouches and town and ceremony carriages, which all reflect the growing luxury and comfort of carriages under the Restoration, the Second Napoleonic Empire and the Third Republic. All are the products of prestigious Parisian workshops: Mühlbacher, Binder, Ehrler, Kellner, Rothschild, Bail, and Million-Guiet.

< >