Louise was thrifty and they both worked very hard. Le Bon Marche, where she had previously worked, used to display the prices of the goods for sale quite openly for all to see (a novelty in those days), so customers could clearly see whether or not they could afford to buy. So Ernest and Louise decided to do the same.
Another inovation was to let customers try on clothes before buying. Their business prospered and expanded until it became the famous art deco Samaritaine department store that closed just recently.
They were very good to their workers, and way ahead of their time in the benefits they offered such as creshes and health care. They even gave their employees a share of the profits.
Even so, they became very rich, and started to collect art. When they died they left their collection to the City of Paris. Originally the collection was kept in one of their houses in Blvd. des Capucines (bordering the 2nd and 9th arrondissements). It was moved to its current location (Hotel Donon) in 1980.
Hotel Donon was built in 1575 for the advisor of Catherine de Medici. In those days the fashion was for high-ceilinged rooms. This is why the panelling taken from the Blvd des Capucines house does not reach the ceiling.
Ernest and Louise had no children of their own, but loved children as can be seen from the many over-door panels (see below).
Above left and right marble busts of Ernest and Louise.
Above left La bacchante au faune perché in marble by Jean-Joseph Foucou (1739 - 1815).
Right L'amour et la fidélité (1787) by Claude-André Deseine.