Five centuries of painting in Europe
The Museum of Fine Arts is located on the upper level of the Palais Rohan, which also houses the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Archaeology. Designed like a grand Parisian manor – or “hôtel particulier” – the Palais Rohan was built for Cardinal de Rohan-Roubise, Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg, between 1732 and 1742. After the French Revolution, the Palace served as an imperial and subsequently royal residence, before becoming a museum after 1870.
The Museum of Fine Arts presents an overview of European painting spanning from the Middle Ages to 1870. The museum’s twenty rooms thereby allow you to wander through five centuries of European art, such as the Italo-Byzantine style, the Italian Renaissance, Nordic landscapes, still lifes and vanitases, Dutch 17th-century landscapes, and 19th-century portraits. The collection features pieces by notable artists like Giotto, Titian, El Greco, Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, Goya, van Dyck, Delacroix, Chassériau, Corot and even Courbet.
The Palace’s refined architecture serves as a magnificent backdrop for the museum’s collection. The brightly colored walls and neat lighting showcase the artworks, highlighting their hues and bringing out their contrasts. The golden parquet floor, which creaks charmingly with every step, immerses visitors further in a time long since passed. Beyond the magnificent paintings, the windows looking out over the palace courtyard and Strasbourg Cathedral are eye-catching as well.
Like other visitors must have been before us, we were particularly struck by the allure of La Belle Strasbourgeoise (The Beautiful Strasbourg Woman) by Nicolas de Largillière. This portrait from 1703 is one of the museum’s main attractions and is easily recognizable thanks to the impressive bicorn hat worn by the subject. The painting reveals itself gradually at the end of a long, ornate corridor lined with cobalt blue walls, gilded details, and Corinthian columns. Our experience with this 18th-century piece was a perfect example of Roger de Pile’s quote from 1708: “A true painting must draw in its viewer…and the surprised viewer must respond, as if entering into a conversation.”
The Museum of Fine Arts
📍 2 place du Château, Strasbourg