The Château Dufresne
Text: Paul Labonne
Translation: Nathalie Senecal


Located near Montreal's Olympic Stadium, this mansion was originally split up into two distinct households, which served as primary residences for the house's owners, Marius and Oscar Dufresne. The Dufresne brothers were pillars of the French-Canadian bourgeoisie and played a vital role in the founding of the city of Maisonneuve, which is now part of the city of Montreal.

Built between 1915 and 1918, this Beaux-Arts style building was inspired by the Petit-Trianon in Versailles. Both the building and its interiors (decorated by Guido Nincheri in the 1920's) were classified as historical monuments by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Quebec in 1976. The Dufresne Mansion, which had stood empty for a number of years, fell prey to vandals in the early 1970's, but has since been completely restored by the McDonald-Stewart Foundation. After serving as home to the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts from 1979 to 1997, the mansion will soon house a visual arts centre as well as a social and urban history interpretation centre.

Guido Nincheri's long career was mostly devoted to the creation of religious art.The secular theme of the decorative work he did in the Chateau Dufresne is a fascinating exception.

In Oscar Dufresne's residence, on the east side of the house, Nincheri painted a number of works using the marouflage technique.

The fourteen ceiling paintings in the Grand Hall are all scenes of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, poet and musician, must free his wife, the nymph Eurydice, from the land of the dead. Orpheus charms the gods with his magical voice and is allowed to leave with Eurydice as long as he does not look at her until they are safely back among the living. However, Orpheus breaks his promise and Eurydice is lost to him forever.

The murals in the tearoom are an allegory of the cycles of life. Images of birth, marriage and death are interspersed with scenes of the pleasures of life.

The library with its Gothic style vaulted ceiling, contains four representations of mysterious winged beings. Nincheri was paying homage to the arts and sciences; particularly poetry, music, philosophy and physics, which are represented by a writing quill, a lyre, a globe and measuring instruments.

Nincheri had also created a series of stained glass windows for the Chateau Dufresne, but unfortunately, most were lost to vandals before the house was protected and restored.

Photo: Tourisme Montréal
Photography: Gilles Rivest