The Musée des Beaux Arts is housed in the magnificent Benedictine Abbaye de Saint-Vaast in the centre of Arras, the ancient capital of Artois. Saint Vaast was the first Bishop of Arras, he died in 540 and was buried at the Cathedral of Arras.
The museum of Fine Arts was created at the time of the French revolution when the people of the city of Arras expressed their wish to build an arts centre and the Abbey (which was rebuilt to a new design between 1746- 1783) was chosen as the site.
Much of the museum was damaged when it was bombed in 1915 and sadly so were many of the works inside. Rebuilding started in 1924 and the collections that exist today were put together with the aid of donations from individuals and other institutions including the Louvre in Paris, the Luxembourg Museum and the Cluny Museum Paris.
The Musée des Beaux arts exhibits a diverse and eclectic assemblage covering a wide field from both a chronological point of view and a collection angle, reflecting the donations from other galleries following its reconstruction in the 1920s.
Two rooms dedicated to Gallo-Roman architecture; medieval sculptures; paintings from the Netherlands, French paintings from the seventeenth century. There are eighteenth-century ceramics, and paintings from the nineteenth century – including the school of Arras.
Showcased in such a magnificent building a visit to the museum in Arras will not disappoint.
A fabulous exhibition is currently on show “Roulez carrosses!“ (Coaches for courts!) – the first of its kind dedicated to horse-drawn carriages and coaches. There are sedans and royal carriages, several items from the imperial collections of Versailles, paintings, sculptures, harnesses and sleighs. The carriage that Napoleon rode in on the occasion of his marriage is on view, the coach that drove Charles X to his coronation and the funeral carriage of Louis XVIII. The Versailles Arras partnership has a terrific website that allows a virtual tour of the carriages and has lots of information. Our opinion on this one “simply magic”.
It is an impressive collection and can be seen until November 2013 and to whet your appetite here’s a great preview:
See the website of the Musée des Beaux Arts for more information address details and ticket prices.