Musee Departemental Georges de la Tour
|Art museums||Musee Departemental Georges de la Tour|
|City||Vic sur Seille|
|Location||Place Jeanne d’Arc
|About the Museum||The Georges de La Tour Departmental Museum is prominently located on Place Jeanne d’Arc in Vîc-sur-Seille, the painter’s home town. The museum features a rich collection of 102 paintings from the seventeenth to early twentieth centuries. The centerpiece is Georges de La Tour’s Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness.
Georges de La Tour, Lorraine’s most significant seventeenth-century painter, was born in Vic-sur-Seille (Moselle), a stronghold of Catholicism and administrative capital of the Archbishopric of Metz. Born into a family of bakers with ties to the local petite bourgeoisie, he was christened there on March 14, 1593.
In 1996, in agreement with the Town of Vic-sur-Seille, the Moselle General Council announced plans to create a departmental museum primarily for the purpose of displaying Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness. In November 1993, Pierre Rosenberg, then President-Director of the Louvre Museum, discovered the painting, which was in private hands in Paris, during an auction without a catalogue at the Hôtel Drouot, The work was withdrawn from sale, prohibited from leaving French soil and declared a national treasure. It returned to public auction at Sotheby’s in Monaco on December 2, 1994, when the French government exercised its pre-emptive right on behalf of the Moselle General Council.
The Ministry of Culture and Communication joined that operation. Its services contributed scientific and technical assistance to the museum project through the Museums of France and the Regional Cultural Affairs Bureau. The government contributed 10% of the museum’s 20-million-franc (3.05 million €) construction cost and helped with the collections’ expansion and restoration. Several works were restored at the Museums of France Research and Restoration Center in Versailles.
Initial plans called for locating the museum in the renovated Mint. But a 1998 donation of 82 paintings from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, various deposits and an ambitious acquisitions policy made it unfeasible to use the building, which was too small to accommodate all the collections and the defined scientific program.
The museum was eventually located in a renovated eighteenth-century townhouse on Place Jeanne d’Arc. Work on the building began in July 2001. The architectural project was entrusted to Vincent Brossy’s architecture firm. The structure outside the old building, with its windows and corner niche, was preserved but an additional floor was added in order to build five exhibition levels served by an interconnecting side staircase. The museum’s roof is covered with slate to blend in with Vic-sur-Seille’s characteristic buildings, including the Carmelite church.
Considering the building and the nature of the collections, the architects decided to recreate the spirit and volumes of a collector’s cabinet. All told, 960 square meters are devoted to exhibition space.
The ground floor houses the reception area, ticket counter and a temporary exhibition room. The town’s archaeology and statuary collections are located on the below-ground level, in reference to the foundations of Georges de La Tour’s native soil. The painting collections are on the upper three levels, which measure approximately 130 square meters each and feature high and low-angle views. Seventeenth-century painting is on the first floor, landscapes and eighteenth-century painting are on the second floor and Romanticism and the nineteenth to early twentieth-century period are beneath the skylight: The renovated Mint houses the conservation department as well as the documentation and resource center, which is open to the public and offers visitors the opportunity to network using state-of-the-art technology. A large education center, ideal for working in small groups and hosting school groups, is on the top floor.
|Museum Collections||The museum features a rich collection of 102 paintings from the seventeenth to early twentieth centuries.|