Two Magical Days with Heymann Objects by Alexis Vanlathem

At the beginning of 2008, I found an article concerning the collection of Mrs. Heymann in the French newspaper “Le patriote illustré” dated December 6, 1931. In that newspaper they said “The collection of glasses and cases of Mrs. Heymann was bequeathed to the Museum of Cluny in Paris”. During this same period, I was looking again at the photographs which I had made during the OAICC Club Trip to Italy back in September 2006. At the Safilo Museum in Padua, Italy there was a small booklet “Les Lorgnettes” written in 1900 by J. Robiquet from the Musée Carnavalet in Paris. It also mentioned things in Madame Heymann’s collection.

So I contacted the Museum Carnavalet and they assured me that there were some spyglasses and other objects of Mrs. Heymann there at the museum, but not very many. A little time afterwards, I contacted the Museum of Cluny in Paris and there somebody told me, “You are not the first person to contact me about this collection”…. !!!! They explained that all of the collection (glasses and cases of Madame Heymann) was currently at a museum in a castle in Ecouen, just north of Paris.

A few days later, I went onto the splendid website of our friend Dr. David Fleishman from the United States under the heading: Collections in France. I noted that the Museum at the chateau in Ecouen was already referenced on the site. Immediately I contacted David to speak about this. Very quickly I understood that David had already found everything, Re-tracked…. (You, dear collector friends, you know the sentence…. YES WE CAN, in fact, HE DID IT). David informed me that our other good friend Jean-Marie Devriendt was already his contact-man with the Castle of Ecouen.

But David told me that it was not finished and that there was another great part including spyglasses at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, close to the Louvre in Paris. So after this telephone call, he asked me to be his contact-man for the two Museums. On July 16, 2008, I had an appointment at the Musée Carnavalet and a very warm welcome of Mrs. Roselyne Hurel (conservateur du Musée). On July 21, 2008, National Feast Day of Belgium, I had an appointment at the Musée des Arts Décoartifs and also an excellent reception of Mrs. Anne Forray-Carlier (conservateur en chef département 17ème et 18ème Siècle).

My experience of visiting those two museums in Paris was so intense and extraordinary. Even now I still don't believe it happened. I swear to you, it was so magical. There I was in front of all these splendid objects on my knees in order to appreciate them and also to photograph them.
At the same time I began thinking about Mrs. Heymann herself and that she had actively collected these nice objects one at a time. She actually held these in her own hands, and she gave all her heart to gaining knowledge about each of these incredibly beautiful things. On my knees in front of her collection, I felt in recognition like I was there in front of God, and then I thanked Mrs. Heymann for leaving the world such a wonderful inheritance of optical antiques. We had thought everything had disappeared, yes everything in front of me was thought to be totally erased from the world. But like magic now these little things have reappeared again and were there right in front of my own camera’s eye. Never to be forgotten or be missing again.
It's something that you can't describe. It is like a first meeting with someone or something special, like the very first time you meet your future wife…. you just cannot describe that, it’s so difficult to put into words. Beautiful. Exceptional. Memorable forever. Truly wonderful. Like a heavenly dream. That is all I can say.
In any way I felt also a very great sadness as I was leaving the two museums. Why? Because the objects are there preserved in the reserves and are not instead presented to the general public. One day perhaps… probably everything can be made visible, at least once more for the members of our Club the OAICC.

I also felt an interior joy and the joy for Mrs. Heymann too, since her objects are now preserved forever (for all eternity) thanks to these museums. Thank you for listening to me.

My pleasure for all.
Alexis Vanlathem


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