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In Paris in 1876 Charles Gillot opened the first French photoengraving workshop and a year later perfected a process for reproducing book illustrations in colour. A friend of contemporary artists and photographers, he chose Eugène Grasset to apply his discoveries. In 1879 he commissioned Grasset to decorate the Paris mansion he inherited in 1881, to house his collection of objects and artworks.
Throughout his life, Charles Gillot, a connoisseur of medieval and far-eastern art, amassed a collection of prints, illustrated books, lacquer, ceramics, bronzes and industrially produced objects admired by his contemporaries. When he died in 1903, this impressive collection was partly donated to the Musée du Louvre then transferred to the Musée Guimet after the Second World War.