It is generally thought that the precursors to the modern museums were the so-called ‘cabinets of curiosities’. Wealthy individuals, established families or institutions collected a variety of objects ranging from fine art and sculpture, archaeological and historical objects to rare or curious natural objects and specimens. These collections would be private, and only open to ‘respectable’ individuals. The British Museum in London has in a sense re-created the feel of these early museums in their enlightenment galleries.
The oldest public museum in France, MusÃ©e des Beaux-Arts et d’archÃ©ologie (Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology) in BesanÃ§on, started out as the private collection of Jean-Baptiste Boisot, an abbot. He bequeathed his personal collection to the Benedictines of the city of BesanÃ§on on condition that the collection was open to the public two days every week. This was in 1694, nearly a century before the Louvre became a public museum in August 1793.
There are three aspects to this museum: archaeology, paintings and drawings.
The archaeology collection of the museum has some striking pieces, including the entire sarcophagus of an ancient Egyptian (21 Dynasty) royal scribe named Seramon, (above) and a few mosaic pavements from Roman villas. The mosaic below is the central motif of what is called the ‘Neptune Mosaic’ that dates to the second century BC. The archaeology collection also has a number of artefacts from various sites in the area.
The painting collection has some well known pieces of European art from the 14th to 20th centuries. Including some well known artists, such as Titian, Brueghel the Elder, Rubens, Goya, Renoir and Matisse. But the museum is particularly known for its collection of drawings. With over 5,500 Italian, Dutch and French drawings, this is one of the largest collections in France ranging from the end of the 15th century to the middle of the 20th century.
So if you are visiting the France-Comte area of eastern France, and crave some high culture, this museum is a must.
The photographs I have used in this post have been taken from Magika42000’s photostream for this museum on Flickr.
More on European Museums
Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.