Permanent Collection - Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon

From the land of the pharaohs to ancient Rome, the department of Antiquity presents more than 3 000 years of Mediterranean history. Egyptian civilisations, Near and Far East, ancient Greece and Italy are presented in its rooms.

The department of Objects of Art presents some true wonders, from the middle ages to the twentieth century: Byzantin ivories, painted enamel from Limoges, Renaissance porcelain, Islamic art, Oriental ceramics and the Hector Guimard Art Nouveau chamber.

The coins and medals collection houses treasures discovered in Lyon, at the place des Terreaux and at the théâtre des Jacobins, as well as from the surrounding area. The collection is rich of 50 000 coins, medals, seals and jewels. The collection is the second largest numismatic collection in France, after the Parisian collection held at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

A selection of the museum‘s drawings, prints and engravings are regularly on display for temporary exhibitions, but the collection needs to be conserved away from light due to the pieces’ fragile nature. The collection illustrates some fine examples of nineteenth century French drawing, and a rare troubadour collection. Equally well represented are the Italian, Northern and French schools of the sixteenth to twentieth centuries

The painting department presents a panorama of painting from Primitive Art to Modern Art. Pérugin, Véronese, Rubens, Géricault, Delacroix, Monet, Gauguin, Manet, Picasso and Matisse set the scene for the discovery of the principal trends of European pictorial art.

Dispersed throughout the museum’s rooms or assembled in the chapel and the garden, statues, low relief pieces and architectural elements play witness to the art of sculpture, from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. Of particular note in this collection of 1300, are the Medieval and Renaissance pieces, as well as those from the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

Most recent acquisitions to the museum’s collection include Jacques Stella’s La Sainte famille, an oil painting of small dimensions depicting Jesus, the Virgin and Joseph receiving a visit from St Elisabeth, St Zachary and St John the Baptist. The museum already had ten paintings and drawings by this artist, originally from Lyon, but no examples of his Italian period (1619-1634).

The baby Jesus is the centre of all gazes, sitting on his mother’s knees. His father Joseph, his cousin John the Baptist, the latter’s parents Elisabeth and Zachary and a cohort of angels surround him to pay homage. But, the child doesn’t seem to see the presents tendered, instead raising his arms to God. The cherubs hovering in the sky carry a cross and the instruments of the Passion. This work illustrates, thus, the double nature of Christ as human and divine. This iconography is rare: if the vision of the cross held by angels before Christ the child is common, it is exceptional to see it associated to a meeting between Christ’s family and that of St John the Baptist.

The museum also acquired Stella’s Sémiramis Appelée au Combat in November 2006, an oil on slate from 1647. The scene represents the moment in which Semiramis, queen of Assyrie, learns of the revolt of Babylon. Having received the message from a young soldier, the queen interrupts her grooming and decides to resume only once the rebellion has calmed. The intimacy portrayed of the scene is in contrast to the view outside of soldiers preparing for battle. This piece, inspired by ancient history perfectly completes the museum’s Stella collection, which had until now been principally composed of religious subjects and a self-portrait.

The Collection’s Origins

Between 1820 and the Second Empire, the state served as the principal source for the collection. Purchases of works by J Chinard, E Meissonier and J Carries completed the collection. In 1839, a marble room was inaugurated to receive, among others, the first busts of “citizens of Lyon worthy of memory


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