• CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI
    MISSION
    «Dege»mask, Dogon, collected in Opti, Mali, in 1931, tage wood, Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES ET MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    LA MISSION DAKAR DJIBOUTI
    Statuette féminine «Asogba», Fon, collectée à Ouémé, Bénin, en 1931, terre cuite, Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    Zoomorph figurine, Haoussa, collected in Cotonou, Benin, in 1931, copper, Musée du quai Branly

  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    Anthropomorphic figurines «Yiri mogoni», Bamana, collected in Ségou, Mali, in 1931, wood, Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    One skin drum «Dodo wulo», Bamama, collected in Mopti, Mali, in 1931, calabash, reptile skin, Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    Sistrum «Wándyerma», Dogon, collected in Mopti, Mali, in 1931, calabash, Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    Painted stone, Dogon, collected in Opti, Mali, in 1931, wood, pigments, Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    «Mbáta» stool, Banda or Bangi ou Nzakara, collected in Bangassu, in 1931, kámbatya (banda) wood - mbe (bangi), Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    Portrait of an Ethiopian man, «Gojam», Amhara, collected in Amara, Ethiopia, in 1932-33, drawing on paper, Musée du quai Branly
  • CHARLES AND MARIE-LAURE DE NOAILLES
    THE DAKAR DJIBOUTI MISSION
    Programm cover of the Boxing gala in Cirque d'Hiver, May 15th 1931.
    Reproduction d'après original.
    Source : Chancellerie des Universités de Paris / Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet / Fonds Michel Leiris.
  • Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles screen capture from the film “Biceps and Jewellery”, 1928.  Directed by: Jacques Manuel,  CNAC-Archives du film
  • Charles et Marie-Laure de Noailles 1929 Photomaton Coll. Particulière
Exhibitions 2012
design parade 7
Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, a life as patrons horaires
THE DAKAR - DJIBOUTI MISSION
Science, poetry and patronage for the benefit of ethnology


Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles are largely recognised for the support they offered artists, cinematographers, musicians and intellectuals of their period. Their interest in ethnography – or more precisely Charles’s interest in the subject – is almost entirely ignored. However, this particularly important chapter within the history of their patronage and tastes, deserves greater attention. Whilst the David-Weills’ and Baron von der Heydt were both creating important collections of African or Oceanic arts, the Viscount, on the other hand, devoted his attention over a ten year period to the expansion and renovation of the Ethnographic Museum at the Trocadéro, which was to become the future Musée de l’Homme (Museum of Man). This modernisation was started in 1928 with the nomination of Paul Rivet as its director and Charles de Noailles as president of the Société des Amis du Musée d’Ethnographie (the Society of Friends of the Museum of Ethnography, or SAMET). Thanks to the Viscount’s intervention, Rivet employed Georges-Henri Rivière, a critic who wrote for the Cahiers d’Art, an amateur of jazz and modern art, and an individual who would also become a key figure within the project. A pillar to the museum, he was responsible for revolutionising how the collections were presented and challenging museum traditions, thus providing a breath of fresh air within this stuffy “bric a brac”. However the modernisation taking place within the institution needed to be accompanied by an equal commitment outside of its walls, on the ground itself, thus marking a true break with the past and solidifying the scientific and intellectual ambitions of the museum, in the midst of its own transformation. The opportunity for such an enterprise was proposed by Marcel Griaule, a young explorer who envisioned a great crossing of Africa, from West to East, from Senegal to Eritrea. His project was  enthusiastically received by the museum’s directors and gained the support of both the state and numerous other institutions. This celebrated Dakar-Djibouti Ethnographic and Linguistic Mission was set to capture the imagination of generations of anthropologists and all those with a love for the African continent. The support provided by Charles de Noailles, an already prestigious patron to the Surrealists, had a notable impact on its success: he found funds necessary for its departure and, most certainly, influenced the voting of the bill which financed the expedition. But above all, the Viscount’s involvement offered a totally new collaboration between patronage, recreation, and cultural institutions. In short, he was responsible for accelerating both the museum’s success and its humanist project, allowing visitors to familiarise themselves with the cultures of the world. Ecce homo.