Chateau Borely à Marseille

Château Borély : Museum of decorative arts, earthenware and fashion

An emblematic house

Decorative arts and fashion are in the spotlight all year round in the bastide Château Borély. Steeped in history, discover this emblematic place of the city of Marseille and its 2500 selected works.

The history of Château Borély

Built by a large family of Marseille merchants, the Borély in the eighteenth century, Château Borély has become an emblematic residence of the city. They built this bastide from 1767 to 1778.This family owned, like other wealthy merchant families, many buildings and mansions. The mansion in the city, official residence dedicated to business and social receptions, is traditionally associated with Marseille (and Provence) a “countryside”, beautiful residence, bastide or castle …, located on the outskirts of the city, in the countryside, in a setting of greenery and freshness. Families retreated there during the warmer months. These beautiful buildings were also the place of celebrations and worldliness.

First asked of the architect Clérisseau, it was finally to the local architect Esprit Brun that the project was entrusted. The central part of the park was entrusted to Alphand, a landscape architect. Louis Borély wanted this project to surpass, by its dimensions and its order, all those of the terroir, so that this house would be considered a real castle. At the death of his father, Louis Joseph Denis, a cultured man and art lover, will continue the paternal wish, ensuring in particular the realization of a rich decorative program inside the castle, completed around 1778.The castle has known many owners, which has allowed instead of feeding on the passion for art and culture of each of its holders.

This three-level castle has two pavilions, a vast courtyard, and a portal to the rear, with many very elegantly decorated and furnished rooms, and a remarkable private marble chapel.

Provençal bastide to museum

Closed to the public, restored, then reopened in 2013, Château Borély has a rich cultural history. The many owners of the bastide have allowed him, over the centuries, to acquire a very large cultural background. Indeed, the castle has seen many lovers of art, fashion, or reading. Little by little, the place was enriched with knowledge and artistic and cultural passion.

The cultural destination of the place is therefore ancient. After a period during which the place, which became the property of the City, hosted the collections of Egyptian art in particular, then briefly the exhibitions of the Regards de Provence Foundation, Château Borély was closed to the public in 2003. The site underwent extensive renovation and development work to reopen in 2013 on the occasion of the European Capital of Culture Year. The Château now houses the Museum of Decorative Arts, Earthenware and Fashion. Today, the bastide is classified as a historical monument.

The central part of the estate of 54 hectares of origin is transformed into a racecourse and then into a park (public garden) in 1864. For years, everything has been designed to make visitors feel the guests of honor of the place. We still find today, the racecourse with in its center a golf course and a large park, the Borely Park. This vast park of 18 hectares around the Castle offers the visitor, since the end of the nineteenth century, the enchantment of a very orderly “French”style” garden, with straight alleys and pools of water and a landscaped park called “à l’anglaise” with a more wild and natural look around an inland lake. Rose garden, waterfall, botanical garden, children’s games decorate this park.


The Museum

The museum combines the history of the place, art of living in the eighteenth century in a bastide, decorative arts and earthenware of this period and more contemporary works. Thus, along the way, the visitor is invited to an immersion in stagings restoring the atmosphere of the bastide such as the dining room, the reception room, the chapel … and more thematic rooms presenting the earthenware collections of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, panoramic wallpapers, drawings …

The visitor will be able to stroll through emblematic rooms as the visit progresses, and discover magnificent objects: porcelain, printed, gilded and engraved tableware, a reminder of the friendly and festive spirit of the Borély family, but also collections of Chinese glasses, jades, or snuffboxes. These collections were donated to the museums of Marseille by great patrons such as Jules Cantini whose mansion also became a museum (The Cantini Museum). Located on the north façade, the coolest in summer, the ceremonial room has a boudoir and a wardrobe hidden in the wall. It has retained much of its original décor: plaster, grisailles on the door, and a painted canvas base imitating trompe-l’oeil woodwork.

The course is also punctuated by contemporary arts and objects.

Department of Earthenware and Decorative Arts

Upstairs, in one of the main lounges, is the collection dedicated to contemporary art. Partner of major Parisian institutions (Museum of Decorative Arts, Manufacture and National Museum of Sèvres, Cité de la Céramique), the castle has benefited from a major deposit of ceramics and contemporary glasses. The main purpose of this room is to exhibit temporary works, in order to provide a new and updated vision of decorative art and design. The first selection comes from the Sèvre factory and allows you to appreciate works by renowned designers and artists such as Hans Arp, Ettore Sottsass or the designer Pierre Charpin.

The Fashion Department

Previously exhibited in the former Fashion Museum on the Canebière (premises of the current Tourist Office), the “fashion” collection of Château Borély brings together more than 10,000 different pieces, which makes it a very rich collection.  Thus, each theme can be highlighted by at least twenty different pieces during temporary exhibitions.