Experience more than 600 years of history through Samaritaine's window displays and stunning interior with an exceptional selection by Mathieu Lustrerie, accompanied by an exhibition that's sure to leave you starry-eyed. At the helm of this visionary house, Régis Mathieu shares his passion for these magnificent objects with us.
Where did your passion for chandeliers come from?
I sort of fell into it — like Alice into Wonderland ! It all started with my father in 1948. My mother took over in 1982, then I did ten years later. My daughter will follow after me, you could say we keep it in the family! Chandeliers evoke something age-old, while simultaneously being a work of art at the heart of a room. As I learned about the history of chandeliers, I realized that we do them an injustice by thinking of them as mere light fixtures. They're designed to make important moments even more beautiful. It's about the gift of light, which creates powerful emotions.
What do you like about your job today?
We do four different jobs: restoration, contemporary creations, recreations and collecting or selling antique chandeliers. I love introducing people to this object and this craft that goes deeper than they could ever have imagined. I've created pieces for some truly magical places, including the Paris Opera, Versailles and the National Assembly! I've been perfecting my knowledge of chandeliers for years and it still fascinates me so much. You never stop learning — it would take me several lifetimes to learn everything!
Can you think of a chandelier that you found particularly challenging?
The one that was the most emotional and had the most history was the chandelier that Louis XV gave to Madame de Pompadour, it has all this ornate detail with partridges and hunting horns. It took me two years to recreate it, and by the time I was done you could have mistaken it for the original! I've made a few for collectors.
Chandeliers are often associated with putting on a big spread — and with celebrations, which is this year's Christmas theme at Samaritaine. What else do they bring to the table?
An invitation to a candlelit dinner is an invitation to share a special moment! The chandelier has to be up to the task. Chandeliers have meaning, you can use them to convey a certain message. It's part of the art of entertaining; the chandelier embodies the spirit of important moments.
Can you tell us about the chandeliers you have chosen for the window displays and the other spaces in the store?
There are about twenty in total, many of which will be part of an exhibition on the Rivoli side. This selection brings together great classics of the 18th century, including one of the most famous chandeliers in our catalog: a recreation from the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, part of the royal collection. These are quintessential French pieces! There will also be some iconic chandeliers from other eras to show how they've evolved: Gothic, Napoleon III, Art Nouveau, and finally some of my creations that keep the craft alive. Many of them are flat, like the crescent moon, so they look like jewels when you hang them from the ceiling! You'll also find some ocean-inspired chandeliers on show; shaped like jellyfish with quartz tentacles, or sea urchins adorned with 800 semi-precious stones. When people come to Samaritaine, what they feel above all is its rich history. The chandeliers will pay homage to the architecture.
So, what does Samaritaine mean to you?
The crazy modernization that the world experienced in 1900! The Art Nouveau style was revolutionary. You can feel it in the architecture of the building. There's something incredibly genuine about Samaritaine, it really embodies that split from the eras that came before. The wrought iron, the sweeping staircases, the designs, they all create emotion. It will never be outdated. I have a soft spot for these buildings which are contemporary despite being 120 years old.
If Samaritaine were a chandelier, what would it look like?
It would be in the Art Nouveau style, with a plethora of different materials. An object that tells a story in itself! Something crafted from what was available in that time, inspired by nature, and timeless.