There is a great variety of artefacts in the museum, donated by enthusiastic and eclectic collectors. Within the same room can be found paintings, sculptures and works of art linking the main artistic movements from Ancient Greece right up to World War One.
The gallery running along the facade of the building displays refined and precious objects representative of the peak of Parisian craftsmanship in 1900. Displayed cheek by jowl are works by some of the great painters and sculptors which were so highly popular in France in that era. Opposite the Champs-Elysées garden are two galleries demonstrating the changing face of sculpture and landscape painting and the emergence of the modern movement.
On the ground floor, galleries devoted to Carpeaux, Dalou, Guimard, Carriès and Vuillard round off this presentation of the ferment of artistic activity which characterised the period 1870-1910.
In addition to this significant collection of nineteenth century French art, the Petit Palais received a collection of older artworks in a bequest from the Dutuit brothers in 1902. This bequest consists of over 20,000 varied works: antiquities, artefacts, seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings and drawings, books, etchings, including almost complete collections by Rembrandt and Dürer...
The addition of the Tuck donation in 1930 put the finishing touches to this collection. Displayed in a gallery bearing the donors’ names, it brings together almost exclusively eighteenth-century works.
This core of older works was further enhanced in 1998 by a unique collection of art from the Eastern Christian church donated by Roger Cabal, making the Petit Palais the holder of the largest collection of icons in France. Ancient Greece, Rome and the Renaissance sit side by side, making it possible to see the connections between them. Dutch paintings are displayed close to Troubadour, Romantic and Symbolist paintings, creating a vast panorama of Western art.
Contemporary art and design are not overlooked in the Petit Palais. Since 1998, works by Zao Wou-Ki, collections from the City’s municipal contemporary art archive and Patrick Demarchelier’s fashion photography have been exhibited in the museum galleries. These aesthetic echoes form part of the museum’s cultural outline of providing the opportunity to experience beauty, intelligent meaning and the desire to create.
There was a unique variety of artistic life in Paris around 1900. Fin de siècle anxiety inspired the Symbolists (Moreau, Carrière).
By rediscovering nature, the glassmaker Emile Gallé, the architect Hector Guimard and the jewellers Lalique and Fouquet revived jewellery and the decorative arts and created the phenomenon of Art Nouveau. Carriès and Cros were unique designers who blurred the boundaries between established and less high-profile art forms. Visionary enthusiasts such as Doctor Vaquez collected avant-garde Post-Impressionist works by the Nabis artists, who were inspired by Japanese art. The ancient world influenced Maillol and Renoir. Several students of Rodin, including Bourdelle and Camille Claudel, moved away from the influence of their master. Cézanne and Bonnard invented Modernism.
The 19th century
The beginning of the century is characterised by portraiture (Boilly, Gros). The heralds of Romanticism (Géricault, Delacroix and Chassériau) expressed literary feelings inspired by their travels. Courbet brought a new perspective to the world and his realism is continued by Naturalist painters (Roll, Pelez). Gustave Doré brought his unique approach to the revival of Christian art. Outdoor painters ranging from the Barbizon school to Impressionism (Jongkind, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley) revolutionised landscape painting. Terracotta and plaster works by Carpeaux and
Dalou complete this panorama of French nineteenth century art.
The 18th century
Four interconnecting rooms make up the Tuck gallery, named after two major American donors. They are devoted to eighteenth century art. Amongst rich furniture tracing the development of Rocaille, Transition and Louis XVI
periods, Sèvres and Dresden porcelain, French faience, English enamelwork and silver display the shimmering colours of the European art world. Works by Boucher, Fragonard, Hubert Robert, Greuze and David testify to the dynamism of French art in this era.
The 17th century
As a result of the bequest by the Dutuit brothers in 1902, the Petit Palais holds one of the major French public collections of Flemish and Dutch paintings from the Golden Age. All the major names are represented : Rubens, Rembrandt, Jordaens, Ruysdaël, Hobbema, etc. Two French painters who lived in Rome - Poussin and Claude Lorrain - keep them company. The exceptional collection of drawings
and etchings also donated by the Dutuit brothers features in temporary exhibitions.
Renaissance art from Italy, France and Northern Europe is displayed close to the antiquities galleries for educational purposes. Paintings, furniture, ceramics, glassware, painted enamels, medals, clocks, books and precious bindings mainly from the Dutuit bequest, have been grouped together to provide a rich panorama of European artistic output from the fifteenth century right up to the opening years of the seventeenth century.
The Western Christian World
This gallery brings together works from the Middle Ages to the early Renaissance period. There are few artefacts, but they are of great signifi cance, demonstrating delicate Gothic ivory work, in addition to the art of goldsmithing and enamel work in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The end of the Middle Ages and the start of the Renaissance are captured in painted enamels from Limoges and a fine collection of Southern German and Austrian wood carvings. There are also several Old Master paintings.
The Eastern Christian World
Close to works in the Catholic Christian tradition, paintings from the Orthodox tradition are exhibited, notably Greek and Russian icons dating from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. Roger Cabal’s donation of his prestigious collection in 1998 means that the Petit Palais now holds one of the largest public collections in France in this field.
The Classical World
The antiquities belonging to the Dutuit collection are characterised by their rarity, virtuosity and technical perfection. There are Greek grave goods from Sala Consilina dating back to circa 520 BC (end of the Archaic era) and a collection of painted vases and bronzes symbolic of Athenian supremacy and Classicism in the fi fth century BC. Terracotta and jewellery testify to the originality of artistic communities in the Mediterranean in the fourth century BC. As for Rome, the Ephebe from Fins d’Annecy and the Bacchus from the via del Babuino are examples of the Augustan Golden Age. Glassware and goldsmithing works of art demonstrate changes in taste between the fi rst and fourth centuries.