Deyrolle is a Parisian institution but behind this wonderous collection of curios there is a story as rich and enticing as the many creatures and treasures found behind its wooden doors. Vanity Fair profiled the story in a wonderful article (which can be found in its entirity here) but here are the highlights:
Jean-Baptiste Deyrolle, a renowned entomologist, founded his taxidermy business in 1831. He passed on the store and his passion for the natural sciences to his son Achille, who became famous for mounting a Ceylonese elephant. (For reasons that are not hard to imagine, pachyderm taxidermy is among the most difficult and intricate kinds.) Achille’s son Émile moved Deyrolle to its fabled premises, at 46 Rue du Bac, in 1888. By then, the enterprise included not only taxidermy but also scientific equipment and furniture, along with printing and publishing, and employed more than 300 people. The Deyrolles were especially famous for their educational posters, which were translated into numerous languages and sold throughout the world. Deyrolle continued as a family business until 1978, when it was sold and fell into a period of slow decline.
Then its current proprietor Louis Albert (Prince Louis Albert de Broglie – who is known as the Prince Jardinier—the Gardener Prince—for the eponymous gardening-equipment line he has created, but who should more accurately be called the Tomato Prince – he grows 650 varieties on his estate, the Château de la Bourdaisière, in the Loire Valley) took charge. No one expected Louis Albert to bring Deyrolle back to its former glory—or more. But that is exactly what he did. He completely overhauled the establishment, refurbishing the ground floor, removing all the small offices on the second, and bringing the wood paneling back to its original 18th-century condition. Meanwhile, he immersed himself in the far-flung affairs of Deyrolle, convincing collectors and suppliers alike of his serious commitment to entomology and taxidermy. In time, the great collections were restored to their haunting magnificence.
Then at 5:45 on the morning of Friday, February 1, 2008 the telephone rang at the Paris apartment of Prince Louis Albert de Broglie and his wife, Françoise. The call was from a security company, alerting Louis Albert that Deyrolle was on fire. The fire raged and destroyed a huge proportion of the interior, some of the exhibits were saved but many were scorched to unrecognisable forms. In the aftermath the French minister of culture has wrote a letter to natural-history museums in France, asking them to lend a hand in whatever way they can. The venerable house of Hermès has issued a silk scarf, named “Plumes,” in a limited edition, with proceeds going to benefit Deyrolle. “The fire stunned everyone,” says François Curiel, the chairman of Christie’s in Europe, “because Deyrolle is an institution, a time capsule that seemed always to exist and would remain forever.” Thanks to a chance encounter a few days after the fire between Louis Albert and Adrien Meyer, head of the furniture department at Christie’s Paris, an auction to raise funds for the reconstruction of Deyrolle was quickly organized.
So the story of Deyrolle continues, rebuilt and standing to this very day at 46 rue du Bac, Paris VII.