Musee Petiet / Limoux

é; half way between Carcassonne and Quillan, it’s difficult to avoid. Discerning travelers know that the A61 dissects a largely unspoiled medieval town, with pretty square, good restaurants, decently captivating churches.

Whilst being stuck in traffic on a sunny day you will have noticed the pétanque players under the trees on the promenade du Tivoli and perhaps you’ll have seen the building opposite the boules ground – the Musée Petiet.  The brothers Petiet, Léopold Henri and François Auguste were rich young men and amateur painters who used the space as studios.

ébirth of Léopolds daughter Marie-Louise in 1854 was followed by the death of her mother. With the full attention of the family she became a painter, having been encouraged to copy the grand masters. She was sent to Paris between 1877 and 1883 to study under Hector Leroux and Jean-Jaques Henner, exhibiting at the Paris Salon in 1878 and 1879. Not bad for a girl.

In 1880 Léopold gave the building to the commune of Limoux as an art school and museum along with some of the family’s art collection. Naturally, this included the paintings of Marie-Louise.

Maire-Louises father died in 1885 and a year later she married Etienne Dujardin-Beaumetz. He was a painter of military subjects; together they present as a husband-and-wife team that showed the extremes of the then contemporary male and female stances, his of the glories of war, hers the virtues of the hearth.

Etienne moved into politics, first as senator for the Aude and subsequently, from 1889 till 1910, as under-secretary of state for the arts. He seems to have had a good eye – he knew Rodin and other greats, bought Manet’s Olympia and work from Signac, Matisse, Vuillard and others. In the days of academic painting he had the wit and expertise to spot the future…

The museum carries some of his paintings, tattered French flags depicted in various battles, heroically composed and laboriously painted. Mairie-Louises paintings are more than merely charming; they are genre pictures with the same models popping up, good portraits of friends and family. Her painting of women ironing, Les Blanchisseuses, is well-known locally. In a sense she is a victim of her own success: having a gallery built for her means that her work had to go in it so she never made it to the big collections and the cognisance of the larger world. There are only two out there and they are small and in local galleries (one in Carcassonne Beaux-Arts)

She died in 1893, aged 39. He died in 1913.

If there are other galleries built to show the work of a woman I have yet to find them. Not many women painters have a very rich family and a husband who is under-secretary of state for the arts.  However, it is not only for its curiosity value as a tribute to a woman artist that this museum is worth a visit. The building is lovely, still with furniture of the time, the eclectic collection of paintings a pleasure. You can see some of the work at the Bridgeman Library site,

though of course the originals have a stronger presence and the museum probably needs your 3 euro entry fee. Its always closed for lunch so ring if in doubt, 0468 31 85 03 .

Viola N. d’Ingres




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