Alexandre Du Mège

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Alexandre Du Mège
Born5 December 1780
Died6 June 1862 (age 81)
Occupationscholar, archaeologist, historian

Louis Charles André Alexandre Du Mège or Dumège, (born The Hague (Netherlands) 5 December 1780 - Toulouse 6 June 1862), was a French scholar, archaeologist and historian.

Life and work[edit]

Du Mège was born in The Hague on 5 December 1780. His father was an actor who moved to Toulouse in 1786[1] and from whom he inherited a collection of antiquities and a taste for numismatics and archaeology. His studies were rather limited but he loved science, so he compensated by self study in the libraries he could frequent. He studied literature and history and after some years had enough knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew for his future career as an archaeologist.[1] As a young man he traveled the Pyrenées searching for sculptures, altars, and other antiquities of Volques Tectosages.

In 1814, the mayor of Toulouse entrusted him with the defense of the city based on instructions from Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult, but the army's corp of engineers did not approve his plan, a rejection for which he long held a grudge.

Du Mège was recognised for saving many antiquities of the department of Haute-Garonne and was given the responsibility of organising the sculpture collection of the Musée des Augustins in the 1830s. His archaeological hobby became a vocation.[2] He brought a number of medieval works into the museum, specifically from the cloister of Notre-Dame de la Daurade and the portal of the chapter house of Saint-Étienne.[2] Du Mège, the Alexandre Lenoir of Toulouse, dreamed of creating in the Augustinian monastery the southern equivalent of the Museum of French Monuments: he reconstituted false tombs or real portals, and wrote contradictory descriptions of the collection's works in successive editions of the collection catalogs he published. Du Mège's disregard for archeological facts and record keeping superseded his collecting and preservation enthusiasm.[3] In 1831 he co-founded the Société archéologique du Midi de la France [fr] (Archaeological Society of the South of France). Then aged 50, he retrieved the antiquities and the medieval sculptures for the Musée des Augustins.[3] A correspondent of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, he created the archeological collections of the city of Toulouse.

Between 1840 and 1846 Alexandre Du Mège pursued the work of the Benedictines Devic and Vaissète by supplying a new complete edition of Histoire générale de Languedoc (General History of Languedoc) to publisher Jean-Baptiste Paya,[4][5] generally considered unreliable and faulty. From 1836 to his death, he was the maintainer of the Consistori del Gay Saber.

In 1852, he imagined a Neo-Gothic decoration for the crypts of the Basilica of Saint-Sernin. It was destroyed during the resumption of restoration work in the 1960s.[6]

In spite of the faults that can be attributed to him,[7] especially his lack of scientific rigor, he remains one of the main founders of the archeology of southern France, a character halfway between science and myth, uniting erudition and imagination, fiction and reality.[8]

The Nérac affair[edit]

The infamous bas-relief of the Tetricus emperors.

The affair of the forged bas-relief of the Tetricus emperors found in excavations at Nérac considerably damaged Du Mège's reputation. A marble bas-relief of the two emperors was discovered in 1832 in Nérac, department of Lot-et-Garonne in a Gallo-Roman villa in the area known as La Garenne, which was excavated under the direction of sculptor and forger Maximilien Théodore Chrétin [fr].[9] Chrétin produced bas-reliefs and inscriptions attributed to Tetricus with the complicity of Du Mège.The authenticity of these pieces was quickly called into question and as early as 17 November 1834, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres proclaimed the inscriptions to be fake. Several of the inscriptions alluded to the existence of a certain "Néra", supposedly the wife of Tetricus I. In a note in the Acts of the SAM[a] (p. 209 of vol. 1), Du Mège claims to have discovered this Néra before Chrétin, thus proving his involvement with the forger. This deception almost destroyed the Société Archéologique du Midi which persisted in hiding the involvement of its secretary until recently, many of its dignitaries persisting in asserting in 1841, 1865, 1889 and even until 1940 that the famous quadriga preserved in the Musée Saint-Raymond is an authentic Roman piece, except for some inscriptions added by Chrétin. In a recent work, Hubert Delpont ripped these interpretations to shreds and demonstrated conclusively the involvement of Du Mège.[10]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Apparently a reference to the publication of the Société Archéologique du Midi.


  1. ^ a b d’Aldéguier, Auguste (1865). "Éloge de M.A.du Mège, Fondateur et secrétaire général de la Société archéologique du midi de la France". Mémoires de la Société archéologique du Midi de la France (in French). Toulouse: Société Impériale Archéologique du Midi de la France. VIII (1861): 257. Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  2. ^ a b Seidel, Linda (1968). "A Romantic Forgery: The Romanesque 'Portal' of Saint-Étienne in Toulouse". The Art Bulletin. New York: College Art Association. 50 (1): 39. doi:10.2307/3048509. ISSN 0004-3079. JSTOR 3048509.
  3. ^ a b Horste, Kathryn (March 1986). "A New Plan of the Cloister and Rampart of Saint-Etienne, Toulouse". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Oakland, CA: University of California Press on behalf of the Society of Architectural Historians. 45 (1): 5, 13–14. doi:10.2307/990125. ISSN 0037-9808. JSTOR 990125.
  4. ^ Du Mège, Alexandre (1840). Histoire générale de Languedoc Vol 1. Toulouse: Jean-Baptiste Paya.
  5. ^ Du Mège, Alexandre (1846). Histoire générale de Languedoc Vol 10. Toulouse: Jean-Baptiste Paya.
  6. ^ Monuments historiques, (in French). number 170, September–October 1990, p. 103
  7. ^ Laëtitia Rodriguez; Robert Sablayrolles (2008). "11". Les autels votifs du musée Saint-Raymond, musée des Antiques de Toulouse (in French). p. 285. ISBN 978-2-909454-26-9. Otto Hirschfeld n'hésite pas à dire de lui dans le Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, tome XIII: « C'était un homme infatigable et enflammé de passion pour sa (petite) patrie » (c'est-à-dire les Pyrénées) « mais à la fois peu savant et, parfois, fraudeur et imposteur. ».
  8. ^ Le Flâneur (November 1979). "La gothique retrouvé". L'Auta (in French). Toulouse: Toulousains de Toulouse et amis du vieux Toulouse. 452: 253. Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  9. ^ Andrieu, Jules (1886). Bibliographie générale de l'Agenais et des parties du Condomois et du Bazadais incorporées dans le département de Lot-et-Garonne; Volume I - A-K [General Bibliography of the Region of Agenais and portions of Condomois and Bazadais incorporated into the department Lot-et-Garonne] (in French). Paris: Alphonse Picard. pp. 171–172.
  10. ^ Delpont, Hubert (2006). Maximilien-Théodore Chrétin et l'empire de Tétricus; histoire d'une arnaque [Maximilien Théodore Chrétin and the Empire of Tetricus, History of a Fraud] (in French). Narrosse: Albret. p. 216. ISBN 9782913055124. OCLC 470395959.

Works cited[edit]

  • Auguste d’Aldéguier, Éloge de M. A. Du Mège, fondateur et secrétaire général de la Société archéologique du midi de la France, dans Mémoires de la Société Archéologique du Midi de la France, t. VIII (1861-1865), p. 255-280.
  • Louis Bunel, Notice sur M. Alexandre Du Mège, dans Alexandre Du Mège, Archéologie pyrénéenne… .- Toulouse : 1858-1863, 3 vol. ; t. III, p. 431-446.
  • Auguste d’Aldéguier, Éloge de M. A. Du Mège, dans Recueil de l'Académie des Jeux Floraux, 1864, p. 229-283.
  • Ad. Boudoin, Notice sur M. Du Mège, dans Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres de Toulouse, VI series, I (1863), p. 264-287.
  • Louis Soulé, Les hommes illustres de Toulouse : Le Chevalier du Mège de La Haye, dans Bulletin Municipal de la ville de Toulouse, avril 1940, p. 245-278, et juillet 1940, p. 363-426.
  • F. Pélegrin, Alexandre Du Mège et les collections romanes du musée de Toulouse.- Mémoire de maîtrise sous la direction de Marcel Durliat, Toulouse : Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 1970.
  • Marcel Durliat, Alexandre Du Mège, Inspecteur des Antiquités de la Haute-Garonne. 1780-1862.- Toulouse : Archives Départementales de la Haute-Garonne, 1972 [catalogue d'exposition] ; 79 p.
  • Marcel Durliat, Alexandre Du Mège et les mythes archéologiques à Toulouse dans le premier tiers du XIX siècle, dans Revue de l'art, # (1974), p. 30-41.
  • Marie-Claude Pin-Leveel, Les papiers d'Alexandre Du Mège aux archives départementales, municipales et au musée des Augustins.- Mémoire de maîtrise sous la direction de Marcel Durliat, Toulouse : Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail, 1976.
  • Toulouse et l’art médiéval de 1830 à 1870. Musée des Augustins : octobre 1982-janvier 1983.- Toulouse : Musée des Augustins, 1983 [catalogue d’exposition] ; 146 p.
  • André Hermet, Alexandre du Mège, bibliophile, dans Mémoires de la Société Archéologique du Midi de la France, t. XLIV (1981-1982), p. 87-108.
  • Maurice Scelles, À propos de "l'Archaeologie du Département de Tarn-et-Garonne" d'Alexandre Du Mège, dans Bulletin de la Société Archéologique de Tarn-et-Garonne, t. CX (1985) ; p. 129-132.
  • Stéphanie Perris, Alexandre Du Mège ou l'itinéraire d'un collectionneur (1780-1862).- Monographie de muséologie sous la direction de Chantal Georgel, Paris : École du Louvre, 1996-1997, multigraphié ; 82 + 62 p.