After two years of closures and four years of work, the old museum of the Bishopric of Limoges is once again open to visitors in a completely new setting. The offices were removed from the first floor, the basement was completely fitted out which made it possible to double the exhibition area, making this new Limoges Fine Arts Museum a magnificent work which can now accommodate all the richness of the collections in the best conditions. On the occasion of this complete restructuring, it was decided to change the name of the museum so that there is no confusion since previously one would have thought that it mainly contained objects of sacred art.
This museum has four permanent collections, access to which is completely free, which deserves special mention. This allows as many people as possible to visit it but also to spend as much time there as possible. Only guided tours are paying. One can therefore discover both alone or in a frame the Egyptian collection, the history of Limoges, Fine Arts and enamels. The first allows us to immerse ourselves in ancient Egypt from around 3000 BC. AD until Roman times. Most of this collection was donated by a 19th century industrialist upon his death. The town hall acquired other pieces through sales and the collection was supplemented with deposits from the Louvre, making this Egyptian gallery one of the top ten in France with nearly 2,000 objects.
Placed in the basement, with subdued lighting for the best effect. It is also possible to see Coptic fabrics, typical costume embroidery from the 4th century AD until the 9th century. We will also note the sarcophagus of Iret Or Irou from the 7th century BC. AD, models (wooden models accompanying the deceased on their final journey), funeral masks, many amulets representing gods ... All those affected by Egyptomania will be satisfied.
The history of Limoges
In this basement we continue the visit with the history of Limoges which runs from the Celtic period until the 20th century. It is enamelled with eight models representing the city over the centuries, fantastic supports making it possible to precisely represent the evolutions of town planning on the site. Archaeological pieces from the Celtic period are not very numerous, Limoges was not built before the Roman period but we can still see axes from the Bronze Age and nails used to connect the beams of the murus gallicus. You can see inscriptions there, including a fountain wall lamp from the first third of the 1st century AD dedicated by a vergobret, a high magistrate of Celtic origin. You can also see other models such as the Jacobins thermal baths, the amphitheater, the domus des Nones de Mars. Among the frescoes, the sigillated pottery, the coins, one can stroll while appreciating the historical framework of the place and the intimacy conferred by this picturesque basement and restored with traditional methods.
Entering the medieval world one may be surprised to find three copies of shoes dating approximately from the 13th-13th centuries and which have come to us in relatively good condition. For this Middle Ages of Limoges we especially notice a profusion of sculpted reliefs, such as those of the abbey of Ste Marie de la Règle dating from the Romanesque period (here 12th century), or later, a large limestone recumbent figure. Leaving this period we enter a room relating to the modern era, a time of crisis and then of rebirth for Limoges, with the work of the Royal Grand Stewards. Turgot is its most illustrious representative and the plans of the city present make it possible to represent the extent of the upheavals. He is also at the origin of the porcelain industry in Limoges. Subsequently, the contemporary period is marked by the years 1850-1860 corresponding to the connection of the city to the French rail network, to its industrial development, to urban planning ... The beginning of the 20th century, marked by the year 1914 on a map where one can easily measure the incredible development of the city of Limoges at the end of the 19th century.
Fine Arts and Enamels
However, there are still two collections to visit in the immensity of this new museum. On the ground floor, the Beaux-Arts collection is quite significant with paintings by Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, Armand Guillaumin, Suzanne Lalique, Jacques Stella ... Very beautiful works, diverse and spread out in chronology since the 14th century until our days. The museum also has quite captivating sculptures by Simone Boisecq. The immense collection of enamels remains upstairs. We start with the 12th century champlevé enamels, corresponding to the genesis of this work in Limoges. We see above all objects used for Catholic worship (reliquaries, censers, pyxids, bishops' crosses ...). However, this flourishing art was interrupted with the Hundred Years' War before being reborn under the probable influence of Flanders at the end of the 15th century with the technique of painted enamels.
The 16th century enamels are the most numerous and spread throughout Christendom. The museum brings together pieces from various great enamellers of the time such as Léonard Limosin, Pierre Courteys, Colin Nouailher ... This was the second peak before a very clear decline in the 17th and 18th centuries. The return of enamel was then made with men of the nineteenth centuries who rediscovered the work of their predecessors and replaced Limoges in the production of art enamels, a technique still so significant in the city today. Moreover, some local enamellers like Léa Sham's or Pierre Christel have some of their works exhibited in the old library of the episcopal palace. A great wealth of collection is therefore available to the public, on three levels and over nearly 3000 m² of exhibition space.
The municipal museum is therefore of much greater interest than it was before. The density of its collections, like that of its enamels, is only found in the largest museums in the world; is it necessary to point out that one finds enamels of Limoges in the Louvre, in London or in New York? Their homeland now has a showcase to suit them, welcoming the other collections with the same brilliance. Admission is free which is a strong argument to arouse curiosity. Temporary exhibitions complete the permanent collections, themselves rotating, so rich are the museum collections. The museum also offers guided tours, either on all the collections, or on specific points. There are also tours suitable for children, school groups, the visually impaired and blind ... A wide variety of services that will allow you to fully appreciate this new museum.
For more information on prices, just contact the museum administration offices via their website.