The exterior of the old building housing the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon) is imposing. Yet, ironically, it was easy to miss and, to my eye, it wasn’t particularly attractive when viewed from the street. Inside—or, rather outside on the inside (that will make a lot more sense when you read the next paragraph), it was a very different story.
For one thing, one of the first things I encountered upon entering this “museum of fine arts” was not artworks, but rather a large courtyard. From the street, you’d have no idea that the stuffy old building you were about to step into wrapped completely around, but not over, this truly splendid outdoor space.
In my opinion, the building looked much more attractive when viewed from the courtyard. Porticos with archways ran under the structure where it bordered the courtyard. The inner building façade was also much cleaner and more decorated than the façade facing the street.
Plus, the courtyard was gorgeous and peaceful. It was filled with trees, grass and bushes. Benches and sculptures were scattered about. Simple paths cut through it. Walking through and sitting in it was a great joy.
Oh yeah. The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon is a museum of fine art. I suppose I ought to talk about the artwork inside.
Before I do, I should point out that on the exceptionally rare occasions when I’m inspired by a certain je ne sais quoi, an aesthetic muse that ephemerally inhabits me from who knows where, my level of art appreciation and scholarship can soar to the level of, “Gee, isn’t that a pretty picture.” However, I’m usually much more philistine than that when it comes to art. Which is in the way of saying that if you take my advice on an art gallery you are a complete idiot. Keep that in mind if you continue reading.
The artworks of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Yes, there are art objects of art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, but why you would waste any time listening to me trying to either wax poetically about them or provide an academic discourse on them is beyond me. I’m incapable of such discussions. So, I’ll mostly just provide a very high level list of the categories of objects I found there. If you want more, please consult someone who is able to provide it to you. That’s not me.
Are you still here? What the hell’s the matter with you? I did my best to warn you away. Don’t blame me if you are much more bored and no more informed at the end of this post than you were at the start. Oh, well. Let’s continue, shall we?
Some of the first objects I saw were antiquities. They included mummies (as in exceptionally dead Egyptians who had been embalmed and wrapped up for safekeeping, not as in an alternate spelling of mommies, i.e. not as in mothers of children still sufficiently infantile as to call their mothers mommies); small sculptures that had been placed in tombs to join their owners in the afterlife and now, instead, have left their masters’ sides to sit in a museum; building stones with chiselled hieroglyphics and other figures; vases; pots; bowls; sculptures; and other objects of art and religion.
Wait. Mummies in the Musée des Beaux-Arts? What the hell? Google Translate tells me that the French term beaux arts translates into the English term fine arts. I’ve already admitted that I’m an arts philistine, but how do mummies classify as fine arts? Did the embalmers pose their subjects artistically before wrapping them up for eternal preservation? I don’t think so.
Another room contained old coins from a variety of eras. Alright. Coins have designs on them. Some of those designs are artistic. But again I ask, how does this fall under the category of fine arts? I’m confused (a fairly normal state for me). Maybe the coins were used to buy some of the artwork at the gallery. On the other hand, unless coinage had much higher denomiations than they do today, hernias would have been involved in buying anything more precious than the then-current equivalent of a crude painting of Elvis on black velvet. I didn’t see any of those at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.
There were also rooms filled with plates, pottery and furniture from various periods. I don’t know fine arts, but … never mind.
Then I got into the rooms that housed what I do think of as fine arts. There were objets d’art from the Middle Ages, some Renaissance paintings, and many paintings and some sculptures from the shortly post-Renaissance period right up to and including the twentieth century.
An aside: The museum had an English-language brochure that described some of its most famous pieces. However, apart from that, there was almost no English text in the museum. That’s not a complaint. I was in France, after all. And, the truth is, despite Toronto (my hometown) being in Canada, an officially bilingual country (French and English), a unilingual French speaker would have a far, far harder time getting around and obtaining information at the major tourist attractions in Toronto than I’ve ever had in my admittedly limited travels in France, despite my almost non-existent French language skills.