An eccentric wealthy civil servant, Louis Mantin, wrote a will stating that his house was to be closed then reopened to the public a hundred years after his death, shedding light on how people lived back in the 19th century. This peek into life a century ago shows a world of opulence and change. Electricity and hot running water were new phenomena in houses, as were indoor toilets. The living areas were made for women who wore long skirts and sat sewing or at other gentle pursuits while men’s spaces were big and dark and bold.Louis Mantin’s bedroom is a jewel of opulence with its carved four poster bed, but most extreme are the walls covered in gilded leather. This material was made in 1812 and covered in silver leaf, then varnished in yellow to give it a golden look.The bed in the Ladies Salon was hung with curtains in the same pink material the walls are covered in. Called “Four Seasons”, Allaire’s room was extremely feminine, with painted ornamentation above every door showing seasonal scenes.Wanting the best of everything, Mantin’s was the first house in Moulins to have electricity, and one of the only ones to have hot and cold running water as well as toilets on each floor.
The electric lamp shown here came from the catholic church. The assistant curator says: “Mantin wanted to have comfort—he was very interested in modernization.”Mantin was interested in all sorts of eclectic things, and in his house you could find not only the stuffed wolf but also a diorama of real dead frogs fighting a duel in a glass globe. There is also a rat playing a violin and a stuffed blowfish.The toilet is porcelain covered with wood, and the bath of course is a modern (for the time) version of the hip bath. The screen in front of the fire was intended to prevent drafts when people were soaking in the warm tub.The formal living room is opulent in the extreme! It contains marble-topped tables, a chandelier, embroidered chairs, and rather than the usual mirror above the fire place, there is a window into the next roomAlthough the house is stunning, Mantin only partially set out what he intended to show. He did indeed conceal his home for 100 years to reveal the dramatic differences between houses of today and his house from a century ago. However since Mantin was rich and owned a mansion, he is only showing how rich people lived in opulence 100 years ago. This is certainly not how most people lived then.