30 masterpieces from the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon

Welcome! The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest museums in France and Europe. It is in a magnificent 17th century building, located in the center of Lyon, between the Rhone and the Saone. Spread across 70 rooms, its collections offer visitors an exceptional journey from classical Antiquity right through to modern art. The museum is regularly expanded thanks to an active acquisitions policy, which, above all, solicits donations from art lovers, collectors, and descendants of artists. The museum is a place of life. One hundred and thirty people work there everyday, welcoming you to its collections and exhibitions. The audio tracks stored on the museum's audio guide expand on the work in the gallery.

Collection of Antiquities
From the land of the Pharaohs to ancient Rome, the Department of Antiquities presents more than 3 millennia of history from the Mediterranean basin. Throughout the collections' rooms, we invite you to discover fascinating civilizations from Egypt, the Middle and Far East, Greece, and Ancient Italy.

Originally, this monumental gateway marked an entrance to Medamoud's main sanctuary.

Dive into the story of the doors of the Medamoud temple
Quel est cet homme qui soutient à deux mains, une outre de vin posée sur son épaule ?
Quelle est cette statue ?
Mercure, le dieu des voyageurs, des commerçants... Et des voleurs
Collection of Objets d'art
The Department of Objets d'art holds genuine treasures, spanning fromthe Middle Ages to the 20th century. You will pass Byzantine ivorywith painted enamel from Limoges and discover the decorative earthenware of the Renaissance before catching your breath again in front of Hector Guimard's ArtNouveau room. Which of our two unique collections will you find most seductive: the Islamic art collection or the Far-Eastern ceramics?
La Vierge et l'Enfant

A remarkable testimony to the high-quality of execution, this brass basin was produced in Fars, a southern province of Iran.

The West and Islam: from 711 to 1492, Islamic civilization developed in Spain (al-Andalus). Muslims introduced luxury ceramics, especially during the 13th and 14th centuries.

The workshops of Malaga and Valencia are exemplified by the production of ceramics with a metallic sheen, a technique which appeared in the East in the 9th century.

Plat à décor de rustiques figulines, France, XVIIe

Land, marine, and freshwater animals placed on mossy rocks evoke the ideal of nature.

Thirty three animals, belonging to nine identifiable species of reptiles, amphibians, fish, and crustaceans, populate this basin, whose layout creates an illusion of symmetry.

A frog followed by two green lizards, and on the other side…

On the other side, a gurnard flanked by 2 pairs of freshwater turtles and grass snakes.

Three other grass snakes coiled up in the background mark the axis of the composition, completed by a seedbed of small animals: frogs, fish, crabs, brown lizards, and a crayfish.

Céramiques de Chine, Corée, Japon. Collection Raphaël Collin
Le mobilier de cette chambre a été donné au musée en 1948 par...
The Medallion Collection
Have you always dreamed of finding treasure? Our medallion collection houses plenty of wonderful examples. Discovered in Lyon in Place des Terreaux and at the Jacobin Theater, or in the wider region, major pieces from a rich collection of about 50,000 coins, medallions, tokens, seals, and jewels are stored here. These contributed to making Lyon's medallions department the second best numismatic collection in France, after the Parisian collection, preserved in the National Library of France.
Ce statère en or est l'une des plus célèbres monnaies gauloises... Il a été frappé en 52 avant J.-C. à l'époque de la conquête des Gaules par César...
Ce petit pot en terre et tout ce qu'il contenait a été découvert en 1993, par des archéologues lors du creusement d'un parking sous la place des Terreaux
Collection of Paintings
The Department of Paintings offers a panorama of works from primitive cultures through to modern art. Pérugin, Véronèse, Rubens, Géricault, Delacroix, Monet, Gauguin, Manet, Picasso, or Matisse will accompany you on your discovery of the great trends of European pictorial art. Paintings from the 20th century cannot be seen here, as these pieces are protected by French copyright law.
Dès l'entrée du musée, vous apercevrez les couleurs vives de cette vaste peinture à la composition claire et monumentale...

On the request of the Benedictine monks from the city of Perugia in 1495, Perugino devoted 3 years to the creation of an altarpiece for the high altar in their church.
The deadlines, iconography, and even the materials to be used were precisely detailed in the contract. Of the 15 elements that make up the ensemble, only the central part and the bezel, representing the Ascension of Christ, are preserved in the Museum of Lyon today.

De quoi peuvent bien parler ce vieil homme, l'air sérieux et le geste expressif, et cette jeune femme...

This painting was housed at the Palace of Versailles. It was enlarged at the top and on the left side, no doubt so that it would fit with the paneling.

In 1991, the choice was made to reinstate its initial format, whilst keeping the enlargement behind the current frame.

Rarely has this scene of the Adoration of the Magi, so often depicted, been treated with such humanity and lavishness.

Luxurious coats trimmed with fur, a dazzling, gold tunic, brocades, and a damask pattern.

Quel est cet homme habillé d'un habit liturgique, agenouillé en pleine lumière, au milieu d'une foule qui lui jette des pierres ?
Marie, Jésus et Joseph sont en chemin, à la frontière des deux territoires ; ils fuient un danger et cherchent un refuge
Qui était Nicolas Poussin ?
Une jeune femme aisée et sa fille rendent visite à un couple de vieillards, alités dans un hospice...

Navigate through the most minute details of the painting thanks to the gigapixel image.

Now you can navigate through the most minute details of the painting thanks to this gigapixel image.

This painting by Antoine Berjon is typical of experiments with flower motifs carried out by certain artists from Lyon.

They were influenced by the bouquets of Dutch or Flemish artists, who had been developing still life art since the 17th century.

Here, the painter demonstrates his technical virtuosity.

Even more than these masters from the North, Berjon tried to create the illusion of reality by painting flowers and fruits in real size.

Each element can be precisely identified. A small fly has landed on the melon…

... making the representation an extraordinary example of illusionism.

... even though tulips and poppies do not bloom in the same season.

Painted during the last months of Berjon's stay in Paris, this huge still life (1.07 m high by 87 cm wide) is displayed in the 1810 exhibition.

The painter, Antoine Berjon, had just been appointed professor of Lyon's flower class.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the city, keen to revitalize its silk industry, was looking for models for its future designers; the students from the school of fine arts.

Une vieille femme au regard étrange observe par en-dessous quelque chose que nous ne voyons pas...
Qu'est-ce que le cycle Le Poème de l'âme de 18 tableaux de Louis Janmot, conçus entre 1854 et 1892

The Poem of the Soul is a cycle of 18 paintings mostly dated 1854, but painted between 1835 and 1855, and all presented at the 1855 World Exhibition on Eugene Delacroix's recommendation.

In 18 paintings, the artist Louis Janmot traces the history of the first years of the soul on earth. The soul is represented through the guise of a man, whom we see being born and becoming an adult.

He is given a companion, a female double of the individual the artist seems to identify with.

In turn, brother and sister, lovers, soulmates, they stroll through earth and sometimes through the air.

Here, the couple fly over high mountains, where the young woman, removing the last curtain of clouds that separates them from the sky, disappears forever.

A key piece of art from the Lyon school, the Poem of the Soul was often linked to the English Pre-Raphaelite movement.

It is one of the milestones of spirituality in 19th-century European painting, as is the art of German Nazarenes or the paintings of a certain Dante Gabriele Rossetti.

De près, on ne distingue que touches et traces de pinceaux sur cette toile, mais en reculant de quelques pas...
Le titre de la toile "Nave, nave mahana", que l'on peut lire en bas de la toile, signifie jours délicieux

A group of mysterious young girls seem to be devoted to harvesting fruit, among branches of plants. Their feet are firmly anchored to the red ground. A yellow sky is shown behind them. Their stillness and their monumentality, the stylization of forms, the rhythm of the frieze elements and the palette of colors are reminiscent of ancient or so-called "primitive" representations.

In his work, Gauguin evokes exotic and timeless insight, based on what he perceives around him: between poetic ideals and melancholic heaviness, between delight and sadness. These fixed, distant, silent figures with downcast eyes and serious faces may be a revealing depiction of the isolation suffered by the artist, who was ill at the time.

The painting became part of the Museum of Lyon's collection in 1913.
It was the first Gaugin painting bought by a French museum.

This made it a noteworthy achievement, especially since Gaugin's style was not always very well received by the public or even by connoisseurs at the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, the piece is featured among the masterpieces of the museum's collection of paintings.

Écoutez la lettre de Gauguin à sa femme
Sculptures Collection
The statues, bas-reliefs, and architectural elements are dispersed through the halls of the museum or gathered in the chapel and garden. They testify to the importance of sculpture as an art form from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The collection's pieces from medieval and Renaissance periods are particularly impressive, as well as those from the 19th to the early 20th century.
Que fait ce personnage vêtu d'une tunique courte et d'un petit manteau ?
Qui est cette femme ?

Elegantly capped with a feathered hat, her hair is tied back with a hairnet except for one strand, which is tied above her brow and adorned with a headband.
This decorative headband brings a touch of refinement which is further reinforced by the large necklace.

The roundness of her shoulders, the oval shape of her face, the tilt of her head, the curved feather and the sinuosity of the drape, all echo the curve of the medallion.

The wooden replica of this sits atop the museum entrance on Place des Terreaux.

This sculpture, which originally adorned the facade of a house in Vienna (Isère), became a decorative element which spread throughout the architecture of the French Renaissance.

Juliette Récamier étati célèbre en son temps pour sa beauté, son charme et son esprit...

Juliette Recamier and Fashion

Cette sculpture à l'aspect volontairement inachevée semble jaillir d'un bloc de marbre laissé brut.... Pourquoi cette approche de la sculpture, si caractéristique chez Rodin, est novatrice ?

Shapes emerge from a block of marble that has been left natural, rugged, and irregular. At first they are matte, with visible marks from the tools used, then as they form into the female body they become perfectly polished.

Collection of Graphic Art
Drawings, prints, and engravings are often brought out of storage for themed exhibitions. These fragile pieces on paper need to be preserved away from the light in a controlled environment. This is why we only enter the private section of the graphic art department for the purpose of study. The collection is heralded by a fine ensemble of French drawings from the 19th century and a rare Troubadour collection. Italian, Northern, and French schools, from the 16th to the 20th century, are well represented.

In 1503, a rich merchant from Frankfurt, Jakob Heller, commissioned Dürer for an altarpiece in his city's Dominican church.

"Painting is very easy when you don't know how to do it. When you know how, it is very difficult." Edgar Degas (1834–1917)

Credits: Story

Lyon Museum of Fine Arts
Director: Stéphane Degroisse, webmaster and new media manager.
stephane.degroisse@mairie-lyon.fr
Gigapixel photos: © Gilles Alonso - contact@gillesalonso.com
Photos: © MBA Lyon - Alain Basset, Stéphane Degroisse, Mathilde Hospital

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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