Musée de la Révolution française

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Musée de la Révolution française
Château de Vizille (Isère) 2005-08-08.jpg
The museum is in a castle
Musée de la Révolution française is located in France
Musée de la Révolution française
Location within France
Established 1983
Location Place du château, Vizille, Dept. of Isère, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Type Art museum, design/textile museum, historic site
Visitors 60,000 (2015)
Director Alain Chevalier
Website musee-revolution-francaise.fr

The Musée de la Révolution française (Museum of the French Revolution) is a departmental museum in the French town of Vizille, 15 kilometres south of Grenoble, on the Route Napoléon. It is the only museum in the world entirely dedicated to the period of the French Revolution.

Its exhibits include The French Republic of Jean-Baptiste Wicar, the first known representation of the French Republic, and La cocarde (The Cockade) of William James Grant, representing Josephine de Beauharnais with her daughter Hortense. The museum was inaugurated on 13 July 1984, on the bicentennial of the Revolution, in the presence of Louis Mermaz, President of the National Assembly of France.[1]

The museum is housed in the Château de Vizille, which has a long history of artistic conservation. It is also home to a documentation centre on the French revolutionary period of international fame. The museum also organizes international symposiums around the theme of the French Revolution.

History of the castle[edit]

Claude Perier, owner of the castle in 1788.

Located 15 km south of Grenoble, on the Route Napoléon, the Château de Vizille or Castle Lesdiguières is the former home of the Dukes of Lesdiguières. The founder of the dynasty, François de Bonne de Lesdiguières, completed the construction of his castle in 1619. King Louis XIII, who made him Constable of France, visited the castle on 3 December 1622. From 1716, the building belonged to the Dukes of Villeroy. The Perier family owned it from 5 June 1780 to 23 December 1895.[2] The castle was the summer residence of the Presidents of the French Republic from 1924 to 1972. In 1973, the French State ceded the castle and its domain to the General Council of Isère, which was entrusted to give it a prestigious cultural role.

It is indeed in the room of the palm game of this castle that was held on 21 July, 1788, under the presidency of the count of Morges,[3] the meeting of the Estates general of Dauphiné after the tumultuous Day of the Tiles of 7 June in Grenoble. This assembly of Vizille or assembly of the Three Orders of the Dauphine, political event determining in the beginning of the upheavals of 1789, thus sealed the destiny of the castle.

Subsequently, other characters will punctuate the history of the castle as 5 July, 1799 when Pope Pius VI comes to spend a night at the invitation of the owner Claude Perier,7 March, 1815 where Napoleon makes a brief stop before the castle on his return from the island of Elba. Used as a factory, the castle suffered a terrible fire in the night of 9 to 10 November 1825 that spreads even to part of the city and forced its owner Augustin Perier to rebuild entire apartments. The reconstruction is even faster than in 1828, an important event takes place in the castle since Adolphe, the son of Augustin Perier, marries Nathalie de La Fayette, daughter of Georges Washington de La Fayette and granddaughter of the Marquis de La Fayette. Absent from the ceremony, the Marquis de La Fayette will come only a few months later, 19 August, 1829, where he is received in this place as a prestigious guest on the occasion of a visit to his granddaughter Nathalie.[4] Adolphe Perier, on the death of his father in December 1833, will continue the restoration of the castle. In 1862, thanks to a succession following the bankruptcy of Adolphe, the Beaux-Arts administration classified the Castle Lesdiguières as Monument historique and Henry Fontenilliat, step-father of Auguste Casimir-Perier, became the new owner. Two years later, Henri Fontenilliat dies and his daughter Camille, Auguste's wife, becomes the owner.

Henri Ding, La Liberté, also called Marianne (1888).

But the lessons of the fire of 1825 are not retained and 17 February, 1865, a second fire changes the appearance of the castle because a wing shaped "L", including the historic hall of the jeu de paume and the great battle gallery built in 1615 by Lesdiguières is destroyed and will never be rebuilt.

The activity of the printing factory is then definitively stopped. In 1872, Auguste Casimir-Perier and his wife Camille, receive personalities as Philippe d'Orléans, count of Paris, then Adolphe Thiers in 1874. At the centenary of the Assembly of Vizille, the President of the Republic Sadi Carnot comes to inaugurate July 21, 1888 a statue of Liberty, also called Marianne, in front of the castle entrance Lesdiguières. Carved by the artist Henri Ding, the pedestal of his Marianne is engraved with some sentences from the Assembly of Vizille and names of representatives of the three orders of the province of Dauphiné.

The idea of installing a museum in the castle Lesdiguières is not new since two months after the purchase of the property by the French State, La Dépêche dauphinoise of November 24, 1924 speaks of a museum Dauphinois in the castle of Vizille. The idea is taken up a few years later by the newspaper in its edition of 6 March, 1932 with this time a museum of the French Revolution, but the building, become residence of the presidents of the Republic, is visited only in the absence of the president. However, with the inauguration in the summer of 1932 of the nearby Napoleon road, a room is devoted to the history of the castle. It was not until the presidential election of François Mitterrand in 1981, and the context of the law of decentralization of 2 March, 1982 to have a determining factor in the creation of a museum of the French Revolution far from the French capital. It is in its meeting of June 10, 1983 that the general council of Isère creates the museum of the French Revolution in the castle of Vizille, according to the report of the president of the Commission of the cultural affairs, Alfred Gryelec, also mayor from Vizille. Two people contribute particularly in the implementation of such a museum, Vital Chomel, then director of the Departmental Archives of Isère and the historian Robert Chagny, curator of the first temporary exhibition. Others will actively participate in the collection of the first works such as Jacqueline Mongellaz from 1984 to 1990 or Alain Chevalier from 1988. The first rooms of the museum are set up at the beginning of the year 1984 and the first director of the museum from 1984 to 1996 is the art historian Philippe Bordes.[5]

The former site of the jeu de paume hall.

The museum was inaugurated on July 13, 1984,[6] with the presence of the President of the National Assembly, two ministers, as well as the president of the scientific and technical council of the museum, Michel Vovelle. In November 1987 began important work to dig the courtyard accessible by the ascent to create the Hall of Columns (later called the Republic Room) and its two large stairs accessing from the old orangery (current entrance) as well as elevator access for all levels of the museum. Two new halls are then inaugurated on 21 July, 1988, but difficulties in the financing of the works delay the completion of the 600 square metres (6,458 square feet) of the hall of the columns. When it opened in March 1992, the museum contains some twenty rooms spread over five levels.

Since 2010, the site of the former hall of the jeu de paume (removed in 1865) is materialized by a vegetated border to the right of the museum when entering. Two meters high, the vegetal border is pierced by four lateral accesses and hosts at one end the busts of two members of the third state, main protagonists of the meeting of the States General of Dauphine, Dauphiné lawyers Antoine Barnave and Jean -Joseph Mounier. As for the large gallery of battles, it was located above the orangery, current entrance of the museum, but at the level of the temporary exhibition hall.


The theme of the Museum of the French Revolution is the various aspects of the history of the Revolution, as well as artistic creation and cultural transformations in Europe, from Lumières to Romanticism. It presents works of art and historical objects from the revolutionary era and is interested in everything that refers to it or is inspired by it for two centuries.

The park of the Vizille domain.

The originality of the museum is to be a museum of history based on works of art. These works, far from being mere historical illustrations, become, through their plastic interest and their evocative power, reading keys to a better understanding of the upheavals and context of the time. The paintings and sculptures of the revolutionary era form an exceptional ensemble, with a great diversity of styles and genres.

These are allegories, historical events, portraits, ancient or tragic scenes and landscapes. As for the statuary, several busts offer the faithful features of famous people, such as Antoine Barnave, Bailly, Mirabeau, the Dauphin of France, Robespierre, Danton and his wife Antoinette or General Lafayette.[7] Statues made in various materials embellish the course like that of Madame Roland, Saint-Just or Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Regarding the decorative arts, they tell us about everyday life: furniture, porcelain, faience French, English and Dutch. Among the most singular objects are the stones of the Bastille, the swords of the National Guard and some musical instruments. Drawings and prints, as well as fragile works - fans, miniatures, printed fabrics - kept out of light, are presented in the temporary exhibitions.

For the works of the nineteenth century, including the two paintings of Lucien-Étienne Mélingue (fr), Le matin du 10 Therminor An II (The Morning of 10 Thermidor Year II)[8] (1877) or his Jean-Paul Marat (1879), they attest to the vitality of the reference to 1789 in the movement which led to the establishment of the First Republic. Expression of their time, they remind us that political news and historical research have changed the approach and interpretation of the Revolution.

Jean Baffier, Monument to Jean-Paul Marat facing the entrance.

In 1853, the painter Alexandre Debelle, while becoming curator of the museum of Grenoble, painted The Assembly of Notables in Vizille, 1788 (aka the Assembly of the Three Orders of the Dauphiné), illustrating the meeting of the States General of Dauphiné held on 21 July 1788 in the hall of the jeu de paume of the castle, a canvas nowadays preserved on the third floor of the museum facing the monumental staircase.[9] The painter has depicted many Dauphine notables on this painting and a sketch underneath the painting helps the visitors to locate them thanks to the representation of about sixty of them with their name, as the lawyer and future mayor of Grenoble Antoine Barnave standing on the platform, his colleague Mounier sitting behind the table with the Count of Morges presiding and holding a sheet in his hand or Charles Renauldon (fr) on the left, future representative in the Chamber of Representatives and future Mayor of Grenoble.

The voluntarist policy of the museum to expand the statuary is illustrated by a bronze sculpture, the Monument to Jean-Paul Marat made in 2013 by the foundry Barthélemy Art, after the second plaster model of Jean Baffier from 1883.[10] The sculpture installed on the forecourt of the museum is inaugurated on July 16, 2013. The first bronze version of 1883 was purchased by the city of Paris and installed in various public parks, Parc Montsouris then the gardens of the Carnavalet Museum and finally the Parc des Buttes Chaumont before being melted during the Second World War. On the imposing stone pedestal supporting the statue, on one side is engraved the eulogy of Marat and on the other, a quote from the newspaper Marat, L'Ami du peuple: « Tu te laisseras donc toujours duper, peuple babillard et stupide. Tu ne comprendras jamais qu'il faut te défier de ceux qui te flattent ».

Documentation centre[edit]

François-Séraphin Delpech, print of the painter David.

The Albert-Soboul Library and Documentation Center provides researchers and students with an important heritage fund and often rare documentation on the art and history of the French Revolution. Created in June 1982 shortly before the opening of the museum, it occupies since 2001 two levels of the north wing of the museum. In addition to some busts and paintings of characters from the revolutionary era decorating its premises, it contains the most important documentation devoted to different aspects of the history of the French Revolution, to artistic creation and cultural transformations in Europe, from Lumières to Romanticism.

The collection, rich in 27,000 titles including 20,000 in history, 3,000 in art history and 4,000 works published between 1750 and 1810, is largely made up of deposits, legacies and donations from famous historians' libraries of the French Revolution.[11] Acquisitions are also made in salons around the world. In addition, a reserve of 4,500 prints dating back to before 1805 is a real jewel kept at constant temperature and in the dark.

Since June 2005, the library-documentation center has taken the name of Albert Soboul, whose teaching and publications have deeply marked the discipline and who was elected president of the scientific council of the museum on 23 June, 1982, less than three months before his death. His own working library was the first fund of the center. The funds were later developed with the working libraries of the great historians Jacques Godechot, Jean-René Suratteau and Roger Barny, given by their families. The documentation center-library Albert Soboul is today a place essential for the revolutionary studies, frequented by researchers of the whole world which can benefit from a structure of reception and lodging on the field. This center is also part of the network of associated libraries of the municipal library of Grenoble.

Temporary exhibition[edit]




  • Philippe Bordes, Alain Chevalier, Catalogue des peintures, sculptures et dessins du Musée de la Révolution française, 1996 ISBN 2-7118-3478-6.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°04′32″N 5°46′23″E / 45.07556°N 5.77306°E / 45.07556; 5.77306