The Museums of Rouen

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Les Musées de Rouen

The Musée des Beaux Arts, le Musée de la Céramique, and Musée Le Secq des Tournelles are all part of the municipal museums of Rouen, who is collectively a member of FRAME.  The museums of Rouen add very interesting collections the FRAME network benefits from.

The Musée des Beaux Arts

The Musée des Beaux-Arts houses one of the most outstanding public collections in France. It features paintings, sculptures, drawings and objets d'art from every school, ranging from the 15th century to the present day. Perugino, Gerard David, Clouet and Veronese are the first major landmarks in a circuit that continues with an exceptional group of 17th century paintings, including masterpieces by Rubens, Caravaggio, Velázquez, Vouet, La Hyre, Poussin and Le Sueur. The rooms dedicated to 18th century art contain paintings by Fragonard, Boucher and Hubert Robert, together with sculptures and objets d'art. Meanwhile, the sheer variety of the collection, the breadth of the artistic movements represented and the presence of key works by great masters from Ingres to Monet make the museum a high temple of 19th century painting. Géricault, Delacroix, Corot, Gustave Moreau, Degas and Monet are represented by several of their masterpieces, and the donation by François Depeaux (1909) established Rouen as the home of France's biggest Impressionist collection outside Paris. Modigliani, Dufy and the Duchamp brothers introduce the collections of the 20th century, mainly focused on the Puteaux group, followed by abstract artists such as Vieira da Silva, Dubuffet and Nemours. And with ambitious works by Delvoye and Varini, 21st century art has now made its appearance in the museum.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts drawings, regularly exhibited and often loaned elsewhere, have long contributed to the museum's glowing reputation. Complementing the collection in the Bibliothèque Municipale, the museum's graphic arts section with its eight thousand-odd drawings is famous the world over, largely thanks to the extraordinary donation by Henri and Suzanne Baderou in 1975 of over five thousand drawings, with major pieces by Vouet, Tiepolo, Ingres and Degas. Several events have provided opportunities to unveil the wealth of the Rouen collection (or some of it, at least), often outside France, including the anthological exhibition presented in Washington, New York, Minneapolis and Malibu in 1980-1981 (French master drawings from the Rouen Museum: from Caron to Delacroix). The Italian drawings also feature in a luxurious publication (Grandi disegni italiani delle collezioni pubbliche di Rouen, 2003) commissioned by the Italian publisher Silvana Editoriale.

© La Belle Vie

Le Musée de la Céramique

Rising up between a paved courtyard and a terraced garden beside the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Hôtel d’Hocqueville contains the largest public collection of Rouen earthenware in France. The building, constructed in the 17th century and largely altered during the following century, now sports a Neoclassical-style interior design, providing an outstanding and intimate setting for visitors to explore the history of European ceramics. The museum contains five thousand pieces, providing a comprehensive overview of Rouen earthenware from the 16th to the late 18th century, and exhibits some of the finest examples. They include Renaissance paving by Masséot Abaquesne, large ceremonial dishes with radiating decoration from the early 18th century, pieces with niello decoration in ochre, and monumental earthenware paintings and sculptures, like the remarkable Celestial and Terrestrial Globes by Pierre II Chapelle (1725) and a series of busts of the Seasons (1730). While Rouen earthenware represents over two-thirds of its treasure, the museum also features some remarkable collections from other earthenware centres like Delft, Nevers and Lille, thus situating its local history in the more general context of European ceramics from 15th century Italian majolica ware to 1930s creations from the Sèvres factory.

The circuit begins on the ground floor with a display of the earliest European earthenware: majolica, produced in Italy between the 15th and 18th centuries. It continues with pieces from the Rouen workshops of the ceramist Masséot Abaquesne (c. 1500 – before 1564), glazed terracotta ware from Normandy and pieces by Palissy's followers from the 17th and 18th centuries. On the first and second floors, the rooms devoted to the 18th century – the core of the collection – feature earthenware masterpieces from Rouen: blue monochromes, red and blue radiating decorations, niello decoration in ochre, polychrome earthenware sculptures and paintings, chinoiserie and embellishments in horn. Works by the earthenware centres of the Netherlands, Nevers, Lille and Moustiers are grouped together in a small study. Two rooms are dedicated to porcelain and china. Lastly, the circuit continues beyond the 18th century with a presentation of 19th and 20th century pieces from the Sèvres factory.

© Albatros

Le Musée Le Secq des Tournelles

The Musée Le Secq des Tournelles is a museum devoted to the art of wrought ironwork. The idea for the collection came from Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq Des Tournelles (1818-1882), a painter who started his collection in around 1865. His son Henry (1854–1925) continued to add to it before donating it to the City of Rouen, when he was researching information on his ancestors (1917).

The museum's originality lies in the concept underlying the collection. Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq des Tournelles appreciated the infinite resources of this metal: iron can be used to make a greater variety of objects, from the largest to the tiniest, than any other metal. When hot-worked, it is as malleable as modelling clay; when cooled, it is extraordinarily hard and sturdy. Its mastery requires long and intensive training, which often accounts for its extreme perfection. Iron is thus used for both large items – stair rails, strongboxes and prison bars – and personal objects such as jewellery, lighters, tools and sewing accessories. It is particularly useful for keys and locks: devices for protecting both gates and the smallest caskets. And it is also found in pieces by silversmiths, inlaid in gold or tortoiseshell (a type of work the English call "piqué").

This collection thus reveals a wealth of artistic or picturesque objects made of or containing iron. Historically, it ranges from the Gallo-Roman era to the 20th century, and geographically, includes pieces from all over Europe (including Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia) as well as several objects from the East (Arab countries and India). Highly sophisticated pieces (master's locks and silversmith work) rub shoulders with attractive folk art objects (shopsigns and cooking pots). Only traditional weapons are excluded, as these are already found in other collections. The main themes represented are shop and property signs, cutlery, trade tools, objects of embellishment and enjoyment, and equipment and decoration for churches, homes and doors, particularly locks, coffers and caskets.

© La Belle Vie