THE

"ART AND HISTORY MUSEUM OF GENEVA"

CREDITS: MIKE SOMMER

Built between 1903 and 1910 by Genevan architect Marc Camoletti, with the aim of regrouping under one roof a number of dispersed public collections, the Musée d’art et d’histoire is one of Switzerland’s most important encyclopaedic museums. Boasting over half a million objects including a number of major works and unique series that have made it an institution of international stature, the museum maintains a permanent exhibition of a selection of its applied arts, fine arts and archaeology collections. Regional archaeological discoveries, Egyptian and Classical antiquities, artworks, furniture, arms, musical instruments, paintings and sculptures all bear witness to 15,000 years of history.

The Applied Arts galleries on the first floor are currently closed (silverware, musical instruments, the historic rooms of the Swiss castle of Zizers). On the ground floor, the rooms dedicated to Byzantine art and to Greek and Russian icons are also currently closed. The reopening is sheduled for 2021. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Depending on the time at your disposal, your taste and your desires, the Musée d’art et d’histoire offers a large variety of itineraries. Audio guides and detailed thematic tour suggestions are available at the main entrance. Two examples of possible visits to the museum are as follows.

The portrait theme provides a good idea of the diverse range of the museum’s collections. It takes you from the Egyptian Antiquities to the Fine Arts departments. Along the way you can admire an exceptional group of Roman busts and the delicate pastel likenesses composed by the great 18th century Genevan portraitist Jean-Étienne Liotard.

The heroines of Antiquity are also to be found
all the way from the archaeological era to the fine arts collections. The tragic destinies of Niobe and Cassandra, especially as depicted on red-figure vases, constitute an enchanting circuit through
the heart of the Greco-Roman collections. In the Fine Arts section, the frequent presence of ancient heroines, Andromeda and Lucretia in particular, bear testimony to the continual reinterpretation of themes of Antiquity by later artists.

 

TEN MASTERPIECES

This selection consists of a tour through the permanent collections with a commentary on the works’ distinctive features and highlights. These ten masterpieces would indeed deserve a visit to the museum all to themselves.

MIKE SOMMER

APPLIED ARTS

With more than 23,000 objects ranging
in date from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, the applied arts collections are characterised by their diversity. Distributed over two floors (levels 0 and 1), they display a multitude of ancient arms, silverwork, pewterware, textiles and furniture.

The Christian Middle East constitutes the strong point of level 0, in particular thanks to its Coptic and Byzantine pieces including bronzes, liturgical objects and ceramics. These rooms are actually closed until the end of 2020.

The Armoury Room displays arms from the late Middle Ages to the 18th century and presents artefacts from the Escalade episode of 1602, when the Duke of Savoy attempted to seize the city of Geneva.

Historic rooms immerse the viewer in a lifelike reconstitution of the past, illustrating the 20th-century predilection for presenting furniture and artworks in their original context.

A selection of the 800 musical instruments conserved by the museum is on display in an area called “musical interlude”. Dating from the late 16th to the early 18th century, these mainly string instruments illustrate the vigour of European instrument making during the Baroque period.

The silverware collection is well stocked with 18th and 19th-century French and Swiss tableware while also including pieces from all over Europe as well as North America and Peru. It is complemented by a large pewterware collection composed primarily of domestic Swiss specimens.

Several historic Swiss rooms, whose sculpted woodwork comes from the Castle of Zizers (Canton of Graubunden), display the decorative arts of the 17th century.

 

FINE ARTS

Initiated in spring 2018, the refurbishment of the entire Fine Arts floor ends in March 2020. The permanent exhibition offers a journey through time, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, from Konrad Witz to Alberto Giacometti, and offers an overview of European art focused on Swiss art.

Both chronological and thematic, this presentation not only offers a narrative of art history through masterpieces, it also shows the evolution of taste and ideas.

Within the galleries, four rooms are dedicated to evolving presentations of works from the collections. Three of them offer a renewed selection of works on paper directly related to the permanent presentation. The room 15 offers thematic exhibitions, on specific aspects of the collection.

 

ARCHAEOLOGY

The Antiquities collection contains more than 70,000 objects. Assembled for the most part in the 19th century under the instigation of collectors, they testify to the Genevan taste for ancient civilisations.

The pieces are displayed in chronological order, leading the visitor from Pharaonic Egypt to the Roman Empire via Ancient Greece and the peoples of the Italian peninsula before the Roman expansion.

The Musée d’art et d’histoire can lay claim to having the largest Egyptian Antiquities collection in Switzerland. The flagship of the Greek collection is unquestionably the Italiote funerary vases collection from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy but the superb group of Roman sculpted portraits is not to be missed either in the Roman Antiquities room.

 

REGIONAL ARCHAEOLOGY

The Regional Archaeology room presents the archaeological discoveries made in the Geneva region over more than a century. The chronological arrangement guides the viewer from the first signs of human occupation, around 13,000 B.C., towards the year 1000 approximately of the modern era. The objects are contextualised by photographs and reconstitutions of the sites.

This room contains one of the museum’s treasures, the oak statue, nearly three metres high, of an Allobrogian (Genevan Gaul) chieftain. Found on the site of the ancient Gallo-Roman port and miraculously conserved by wet earth, this over two-thousand-year- old statue bears witness to the meeting of the Celtic and Roman cultures.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Musée d’art et d’histoire
Rue Charles-Galland 2 | CH-1206 Geneva

THE MUSÉES D’ART ET D’HISTOIRE

Of a multidisciplinary nature, the Geneva Musées d’art et d’histoire extend an invitation to take a voyage back through time. They comprise a network of several different sites that constitute the largest museum group in Switzerland.

1 Musée d’art et d’histoire
2 Cabinet d’arts graphiques du Musée d’art et d’histoire
2 Bibliothèque d’art et d’archéologie du Musée d’art et d’histoire

Maison Tavel 4 Musée Rath

T +41 (0)22 418 26 00 F +41 (0)22 418 26 01 mah@ville-ge.ch Open from 11 a.m. to Closed on Monday