It has been nearly a year since I was in Fayetteville doing odd jobs for my parents at their shop, yet I never feel disconnected from the hubbub at French Metro Antiques. Only two months ago, my parents came to visit me here in France where I’ve spent the past year studying at the Université du Maine in Le Mans.
Soon after their arrival, I found myself tagging along once again on one of their buying trips. I was greeted by the familiar experience of having to share what little space there was in the rental car with various treasures of copper, bronze, and a variety of woods. Despite the frequent car loads we dropped off at the shippers, within a matter of hours there always seemed to be a new hoard of goods to share the seats with. One might think it must have been annoying, but for me, I enjoyed their company, the stories they told, and the lives they’ve lived.
Each piece of art, for that is what they were—gave me new insight into my favorite subject of study: French history. The change in motifs from the time of the French kings to the dawn of the Enlightenment and the formation of the French Republic showed a change in attitude among the French people. The adopted patriotism following the Revolution was evidenced in the revolutionary hat on a brass drum cover from 1793 or in the rooster head pommel on a Napoleonic sapper’s saber that we found in Lyon.
Every day spent with my parents, I inspected the items we found either at some small brocante (flea market) in a village nobody has heard of, or at a grand déballage (fair) where we’d spend hours, eyes peeled, on the lookout for rare objets d’art, such as a skillfully made marquetry chest.
As a Hunt, I am cursed with a keen appreciation for craftsmanship and forgotten beauty. Try as I might to be restrained (after all, I am just a poor college student), I find myself yearning to expand the collections that I myself have assembled. This trip in particular, I added to my collection a spadroon with the imperial eagle of Napoleon Bonaparte and dated August 1812, just two months into the emperor’s invasion of Russia. Though it is impossible to know for sure, I couldn’t’ help but imagine that it had been used during the Battle of Borodino on September 7th.
French Metro Antiques has allowed me to expand upon my knowledge of French history and feed my passion for the past. I’ll be back in Fayetteville soon, just in time to help receive the fall shipment. I will once again be greeted by the objects we found on our trip through France, and with each new item unpacked, a memory of our errant search for art will rush back to me along with the nostalgia of travelling in France with my parents.