Since 1886, the building has served as the Bibliotèque Forney, devoted to the decorative arts, to the arts professions, and to the fine arts.
The holdings also include a remarkable collection of posters, postcards, photographs, as well as publicity and commercial images. The curators of the current show have selected a wonderful group of advertising posters that, taken together, provide a most entertaining walk through French history.
Then there's this arresting figure, looking like a character from an Asterix comic book, who is actually promoting rubber heels for your shoes! The company is still in business in Clermont-Ferrand, selling tires as well as heels and soles.
The iconic blue packaging of the French cigarettes "Gauloises", still available today, was well represented, but with a fearsome Gallic warrior standing behind the product.
There was even a poster selling cocoa, that reached back to those early images. I never imagined fierce Gauls being mad for cocoa, but I can see how their depiction here would appeal to any young child to "finish your cocoa, so you can grow big and strong like Andre"!
And speaking of François the 1st, famous for his appetites and his "joie de vivre", here he seems about to embrace the lovely young woman, or the bottle of quinine she is offering him...
...while Louis XIV prefers a brand of cognac that dates back to just a few years after his birth.
In the 1920s, as a schoolchild, you could have an exercise book showing Louis XIV at court, presenting his son to the assembly, all thanks to Chicorée Mogta-Williot.
Here, an earlier President, Sadi Carnot, bestows a laurel wreath on Louis Cottereau, champion sprint cyclist. At this time, athletes were becoming demi-gods; in fact, perhaps this ad was the first commercial sponsorship!
As privacy laws took hold, advertisers had to fall back on more anonymous images, but still they told a tale. Here the life of a soldier, his uniform, his armaments, and his cigarette!
My personal favorite in this section was a little black and white ad for Waterman fountain pens from WWI when, apparently, they were the preferred writing instrument at the Front. My father, who worked for the Waterman Pen company for some 25 years or more, would have been most amused.
Meanwhile, when I get back to Inverness, I'm going to dig out all those Asterix comic books and find out more about those crazy Gauls!