A visit to the Paris Saint-Ouen flea markets is the pleasure of finding luxury objects, lamp fixtures or fine watchmaking, Art Deco or design… There is the joy of being taken by surprise, amidst all this rare and antique plethora, by a strange and curious object. Some stall-holders in Saint-Ouen are even specialised in "curiosity" articles.
A curiosity cabinet is a room, or display, that groups together a collection of curious objects - unusual and strange representing particular themes or ideas. The very first curiosity cabinets were created during the 16th century, at the time of the first major scientific discoveries and world explorations. The curiosity cabinet is sometimes considered as the precursor to the museum in general and the natural science museum.
Catalogues making the inventory of the curiosities collected were published for distribution in particular to the scientific and medical corps.
Curiosity cabinets group together a variety of objects, always original, strange, exotic, rare… that come from afar or long ago.
A curiosity cabinet can represent a microcosm made up of 4 parts : the 3 kingdoms, animal, vegetal, mineral, and man-made. Among the vast variety of curiosity objects (curiosa), we can note 4 major groups.
This category identifies objects made or transformed by Man (works of art, weapons, coins, diverse utensils, music instruments, etc.).
Naturalia are natural objects : taxidermy, stuffed animals, dried insects, skeletons, insect or animal carapaces, shells, herbaria, fossils, minerals and nature's "monsters".
This category, composed of exotic plants and animals (and overlaps with that of naturalia), often result from explorations begun during the 16th century.
This category overlaps with that of artificilia and groups together scientific, medical instruments, geometry, psychiatry, marine, etc.
One who makes up a curiosity cabinet is known as a curious collector. He is not just simply gathering curious objects together, he is putting together a genuine collection !
Hunting trophies, stuffed animals, dried butterflies, dried plants and flowers, shells, fossils, skeletons, vanities, skulls, bestiaries, worldmaps, old maps, scientific and medical instruments… Objects of curiosity are quite varied. You can find some stalls specialised in curiosity cabinets at the St-Ouen/Clignancourt flea markets. Don’t omit to have a look around the other stalls that are bursting just as much with curiosities.
At the heart of the Biron flea market, Serge Davoudian welcomes you to his stall 126 - Allée 1, the appropriately named "Le Curieux". Here you can find feather or lace fans, handy small objects, boxes and cases for different uses : sewing kit, barber equipment, manucure set, etc., and also weapons.
At the Paul Bert flea market, you can find several curiosity stalls in allée 4.
"Memento Mori", Stall 213, Allée 4, proposes strange and morbid objects such as stuffed animals, protheses, glass eyes, dentures and all kinds of medical equipment, orthopedic and other gas masks, human or animal skeletons, hearses, etc.
Bruno Langlois, proposes curiosity objects at stall 215, Allée 4.
Pierre Balzagues’ curiosity cabinet is a gold mine for those looking for really unusual objects. He can be found at stall 211, Allée 4. You will find stuffed animals, the skin of wild animals, skeletons, apothecary flasks and jars, dried insect displays, etc.
Christian Valorso has filled up his curiosity cabinet in the spirit of those from the 17th century : objects made of bone, feathers, skin, leather, weapons, utensils, cult objects from remote tribes… You will find all these treasures and oddities at his stall, Le Cabinet de curiosités situated on the ground-floor of Dauphine market, allée centrale, stand 43.
Mes découvertes proposes a wide variety of articles including several curiosity objects : human skeletons, stuffed birds and animals, microscopes, geometry measuring tools, etc. You can find this vast space at stalls 100, 119-120, 136-138 at Dauphine market.