Palais des Papes
Musée du Petit Palais
Musée du Vieil Avignon
Palais du Roure
Musée du Mont-de-piété
Musée Angladon Dubrujeaud
Maison Jean Vilar
|Le musée Calvet|
Joseph-Ignace de Villeneuve-Martignan was elected to the city council in 1735, at the age of 22. A year earlier he had decided to refurbish the family residence, and confided this work to the architect Thomas Lainée.
In 1738, he became the head of the council, and engaged the architect Jean-Baptiste Franque to built what is still today the most beautiful seignorial hôtel in Avignon. Bankrupt, he was forced to stop work in 1754, and he rented the ground floor.
The building then passed through many hands and was transformed after the Revolution by its successive proprietors. In 1833 the city of Avignon acquired it to house its municipal museum ; space in the former Couvent Saint-Martial being insufficient.
Work effected by Renaux and dEyssautier left only the staircase, the lower gallery, three salons, and the soothing Méridienne leading onto the garden, near the Monuments Historiques between 1986 and 1991. They are very close to the originals, and even the « tall trees in the gardens », already celebrated by Stendhal in his Mémoires dun touriste (1837), remain.
While it is difficult to discern the general arrangement of the hôtel in the present edifice, we at least know that the entryway sported a wood door that was replaced by the cast iron work visible today. It was made by the Avignonnais iron craftsman Noël Biret in 1886. The main entry is situated in the center, aboe a pentagonal stairway. Above the door the arms of Villeneuve-Martignan, and those of his wife Henriette-Victoire de Sade, figure. To the left are stables, to the right, a blind wall ; the hôtel next door (now the Musée Requien) did not belong to Villeneuve-Martignan.
Today the buildings is accessed from the left. The entrance hall sports a fine example of a « flat vault » , a speciality of the Franques who learned it from the architect of Versailles, Jules Hardouin-Mansart. From this salon, or from the lower gallery, one passes onto the staircase, a superb example of the kind of suspended work that can be found in Avignon.
This one is made of blue Barbentane and white Fontvieille stone, and the ceilings stuc, or false stone decoration was based on its dichromatic composition. It leads to the second floor, formely living space, which was altered by the construction of the Vernet gallery in 1833.
The main wing presents a ground floor with five linked salons. All the windows facing the garden have the original sculpted embrasures, and two of them don gilt or painted stucs, one with Chinese dragons, the other the theme of music. These rooms are currently being restored and while be viewable again in 2003. They benefit from excellent lighting, thanks to the east-west orientation of the wing, which also shelters the garden from the fury of the mistral wind. The wing itself is built over vaulted basements, with kitchens and a stillfuctioning well.
The facade facing the garden is beautiful designed. The second story has high windows with classical pediments and a rhythm of paired Ionic pilasters ; the ground floor a rhythm of Doric pilasters. A simple balustrade conceals the Roman-tile roof, at once giving the ensemble a Palladian look and recalling Versailles ;
On the other side, the Méridienne is a rare example in Provence of stuc decoration c. 1780. The theme is the Seasons, and the profusion of symbols of peace (lances entwined in olive branches, birds sweetly pecking each other) make for a fine relaxing atmosphere. Restored in 2000 by the Monuments Historiques and the conservancy of the museum, it is now integrated into the course of the visit.
The wing at the end of the garden was constructed in the nineteenth century. The museums extensive archeological collection will be on view there starting in 2003. To the north, the Hôtel de Villeneuve-Martignan comes up against another eighteenth-century hôtel, the Montlaur, where prehistoric and iron-work collections donated by Noël Biret will offering a view onto the northern court, and occupying the former service area, was designed by the architect Philippe Dubois.
The museum and the hôtel that accommodates it have also been known for the peacoks living in the gardens. The birds will return when restoration work is completed, probably in 2003-04. They are currently in the gardens of the Rocher des Doms.
The Museums Collections
The extensive prehistoric collection mainly concerns the Vaucluse region. Covering Neolithic to the twentieth-century periods, the Musée de Calvet, a direct descendat of an Early Modern curiosity cabinet, contains the major repository of items relating to Avignons past, and is one of Frances finest museums. It also maintains the special status of a municipal museum administered by the Foundation Calvet, an executive holdings. Esprit Calvet devised this system in 1810 ; it continues to acquire works of art and to edit specilized publications.
The museum was administered under the municipal library until 1984. Reorganizing the two into separate institutions enables uniting and exhibiting the collections at one site, the Hôtel de Villeneuve-Martignan. Until completion of renovations in 2003, only the painting, sculpture and objets dart collections are on view. The museum also presents temporary exhibitions relating to themes pertaining to the collections.
In addition to some governmental contributions and the foundations acquisitions works have come first from Esprit Calvet, the Esprit Requien, Edouard Raynolt, Marc Deydier, Noël Biret, Auguste-Louis Catelan, Joseph Rignault, Victor Puech. These sources have produced remarkable range of sixteenth-century landscapes, among which are those of Joseph Vernet and Hubert Robert ; a great number of sixteenth to eigteenth-century portraits ; Neoclassic to Romantic collections dominated by David (La Mort de Bara), Horace Vernet (Mazeppa aux loups) and Géricault (Le Combat de Nazareth). Artists from Provence are well represented with Simon de Châlons, Nicolas Mignard and his son Pierre II Mignard, the parrocels, the already mentioned Joseph Vernet, and Auguste Chabaud in the modern period.
There are several tableaux from Avignonnais churches, works painted by Philippe Sauvan from the ceiling of the former city hall, and works from hôtels particuliers indicating the richness of civil interiors. Finally, there is a great quantity of Italian painting (Luca Giordano, Pietro Ricchi and the astonishing Antonio Forberas Chevalet du peintre, trompe-lil), sculpture (Francesco Laurana, Giambologna). Spagnards (Luis de Morales) and the Northern schools (Frans II Franken, Jean Cossiers) are hung along with a beautiful series of Dutch, French (Pierre Dupuis) and Italian still lives.
Finally, the pictorial revolutions of the nineteenth century, Chassériau (La Nymphe endormie), Daumier, Corot, Manet (Nature morte au chapeau espagnol) and Sisley, lead the way to even more radical painters, such as Vlaminck (Sur le zinc), Chaïm Soutine, and Albert Gleizes. In sculpture, besides the already mentioned Italians, note the remarkable ensemble of sixteenth to twentieth-century Italian and northern (Adrien de Vries) bronzes, the fifteen Tondi du Rosaire (Spain, early seventeenth century) and a Saint John (France, fifteenth century), and the Portrait funéraire de Lord Inverness (Italy, late seventeenth century).
Beautiful sculpted portraits by Jean-Baptiste II Péru, Boizot, and Thorvaldsen are presented in the Vernet gallery. From the nineteenth century, there is a notable Tête dOreste by Francisque Duret, Cassandre mourante by James Pradier and Portrait de Paul Claudel en jeune romain by Camille Claudel. Marcel Puechs donations of 1986, 1996, and 1998 are presented in several rooms : seventeenth and eighteenth-century gold and silver items are among the southern, Parisian an Spanish (a ewer, late sixteenth-century processionary chandeliers).
A Louis XVI banquette is presented in the Méridienne, and painings and three tapestries, a Mille-fleurs (c.1510), a David et Bethsabée (early sixteenth century) and an Allégorie de lAbondance (c.1520) are on exhibit in Salles I and II. A fourth tapestry, Jason conquiert la Toison dOr, was executed after a Jean-François de Troy cartoon. It is an eighteenth-century Gobelins, and derives from the Mobilier National collection. Among the Asian works in salle II are fourteenth-century Chinese Bodhisatva and a c.1200 Cambodian Khmer Head.