France is building a new museum of history dedicated to the cultural glory of the county during the 17th Century.

The conversion of the former royal barracks of Saint-Cloud into France’s future Musée du Grand Siècle – which will begin this year – will provide a full panorama of the country during the reign of King Louis XIV – better known by many as the Sun King who built the Palace of Versailles. Until the grand opening in 2025/2026, visitors can get a preview of how the museum will look at a newly opened exhibition inside Sceaux Park, south of Paris.

The idea for the new museum was born out of a meeting of two 17th century art enthusiasts and, in particular, their eagerness to celebrate the work of painter Nicolas Poussin. The museum relies on founder Pierre Rosenberg, formerly a director of the Louvre Museum, who plans to donate his entire art collection so that it can be seen by the public.

A new institution dedicated to the 17th century

Rosenberg’s donation to the department of Hauts-de-Seine- west of Paris– was signed in September 2020. The collection consists of 3,502 drawings from the 16th to the 20th centuries; 673 paintings by artists from the 15th to the first half of the 20th century; 805 Murano glass animals from the 20th century; and finally, an art history library of 50,000 works and a wealth of research documentation.

France's new museum, The Musée du Grand Siècle, will celebrate 17th Century art
A portrait of the Grand Dauphin – Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Poultier, gilt bronze on marble, circa 1700 – (Musée du Grand Siècle, France)

Once opened around 2025/2026, visitors will discover a complete panorama of France in the 17th century, covering basically the time of Henri IV (late renaissance) to the Regency (1590-1725). The Musée du Grand Siècle will thus be the logical continuation of the Musée of the Middle-Age (Musée de Cluny in Paris) and the Musée de la Renaissance (Écouen in Val d’Oise).

The collections of this new museum will consist of part of the Rosenberg donation, whose core is 17th century art, as well as important deposits from national or local museums and works acquired by the Hauts-de-Seine department. Paintings, sculptures, furniture, engravings, medals and crafts will be presented together, highlighting a civilisation and a spirit, while creating fruitful links between the objects.

A first glimpse of the future museum in Sceaux Park, south of Paris

Last year an exhibition was launched to give visitors a glimpse of what the Musée du Grand Siècle will look like and the collections it will hold. Since September, The “Petit Château”, a 17th century large pavilion within Sceaux Park highlights the collection.

The “Petit Château” in Sceaux Park (Photo : Domaine Départemental de Sceaux @Willy Labre)

On the first floor, three rooms are dedicated to the arts of the Louis XIII period; another is dedicated to exhibitions of drawings and precious works; the last one is more specifically dedicated to collectors, one of the major aspects of the future museum, and in particular to the Rosenberg donation. The exhibition is open on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The Palace of Versailles is just 10km away from the museum site of the former royal barracks of Saint-Cloud – a neo-classical structure built in the 1820s and located in the lower part of the Saint-Cloud Park – and can be reached by car in less than 20 minutes making it the perfect circuit for visitors to discover French art de vivre from the 17th century.

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