In summer 2019, Parisian artist Josette Rispal, with the help of Koen Roelstraete (member of the Tobacco Syndicate) and Robert Zehil (antique dealer) contacted the city of Wervik. Her father, Antonin Rispal, had collected a large collection of tobacco jars over the years. He passed away in 2003 and Josette did not want to lose this wonderful collection. She wished to donate all the tobacco jars to an institution that would take care of it.
Who was Antonin Rispal
Antonin Rispal was born in 1920 in Trénac in the French Auvergne department of Cantal as the youngest son in a large farming family. His father died at a young age and Antonin soon had to help out on the farm. But he dreamed of making it in Paris.
After his marriage to Joséphine Ajalbert, they settled in Paris. They worked there as helpers in a hotel, later as gerants. Eventually they became owners of a hotel, near the Military School and the Eiffel Tower. For more than 50 years, they welcomed thousands of guests including a large number of famous people such as Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Halliday, Rod Stewart, Jacques Chirac, …
One fine day in 1953, Antonin was given three old tobacco jars by his cousin, an antique dealer and art collector, to decorate the entrance of the hotel. Antonin lost his heart to these pots and began passionately searching, at home and abroad, for other tobacco pots. By 1963, he had meanwhile collected hundreds of tobacco pots, building the largest collection in France.
Josette Rispal, daughter of Antonin, thus decided not to let her father’s legacy go to waste and donated the collection of tobacco jars to the city of Wervik.
The town council approved the donation in December. A few weeks later, the 598 tobacco jars are on the heritage site De Briekenmolen. Soon, a selection of the pots will be on display in a thematic exhibition in the first room of the National Tobacco Museum.