Musée de la Révolution française

Last updated
Musée de la Révolution française
Chateau de Vizille (Isere) 2005-08-08.jpg
Museum, in a castle
France location map-Regions and departements-2016.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within France
LocationPlace du château, Vizille, Dept. of Isère, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Type Art museum, design/textile museum, historic site
Visitors70,002 (2017)
DirectorAlain Chevalier

The Musée de la Révolution française (Museum of the French Revolution) is a departmental museum in the French town of Vizille, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Grenoble on the Route Napoléon. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to the French Revolution.

In the administrative divisions of France, the department is one of the three levels of government below the national level, between the administrative regions and the commune. Ninety-six departments are in metropolitan France, and five are overseas departments, which are also classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; the last two have no autonomy, and are used for the organisation of police, fire departments, and sometimes, elections.

Vizille Commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Vizille is a commune in the Isère department in southeastern France.

Grenoble Prefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère and is an important European scientific centre. The city advertises itself as the "Capital of the Alps", due to its size and its proximity to the mountains.


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

Jean-Baptiste Wicar French painter

Jean-Baptiste Wicar was a French Neoclassical painter and art collector.

William James Grant English painter

William James Grant was an English painter.

Cockade ornament consisting of or imitating a rosette or knot of ribbon, worn usually on a hat as a badge of office or party, as part of livery dress, or as decoration

A cockade is a knot of ribbons, or other circular- or oval-shaped symbol of distinctive colours which is usually worn on a hat.

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

Château de Vizille castle

The Château de Vizille is a castle in the French town of Vizille near Grenoble. It is one of the most prestigious and important castles of the Dauphiné Region. Traditionally since the 14th century the Dauphiné was the homeland of the inheritor of the French throne. Today the Château de Vizille houses the Musée de la Révolution française.

Castle history

Claude Perier, owner of the castle in 1788. Claude..perier.jpg
Claude Perier, owner of the castle in 1788.

Located 15 km south of Grenoble on the Route Napoléon, the Château de Vizille (Castle Lesdiguières) is the former home of the Dukes of Lesdiguières. The founder of the dynasty, François de Bonne de Lesdiguières, completed his castle in 1619. King Louis XIII, who made him Constable of France, visited it on 3 December 1622. In 1716, the building was transferred 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. France ceded the castle and its domain to the General Council of Isère, which was entrusted with giving it a prestigious cultural role, in 1973.

Route Napoléon route taken by Napoleon in 1815 on his return from Elba

The Route Napoléon is the route taken by Napoléon in 1815 on his return from Elba. It is now concurrent with sections of routes N85, D1085, D4085, and D6085.

François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières Marshal of France

François de Bonne, duc de Lesdiguières was a French soldier of the French Wars of Religion and Constable of France.

Louis XIII of France King of France and Navarra 1610-1643

Louis XIII was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who was King of France from 1610 to 1643 and King of Navarre from 1610 to 1620, when the crown of Navarre was merged with the French crown.

On 21 July 1788, during the presidency of the count of Morges, [3] the Assembly of Vizille met in the castle's jeu de paume room after the 7 June Day of the Tiles in Grenoble. Pope Pius VI spent a night in the castle at the invitation of owner Claude Perier on 5 July 1799, and Napoleon stopped there during his return from the island of Elba on 7 March 1815. Used as a factory, the castle experienced a fire in the night of 9–10 November 1825 which spreads to part of the city. In 1828, Adolphe Perier (son of owner Augustin Perier and grandson of Claude) married Nathalie de La Fayette (daughter of Georges Washington de La Fayette and granddaughter of the Marquis de La Fayette) in the castle. Absent from the ceremony, the Marquis de La Fayette was a guest on 19 August 1829 during a visit with Nathalie. [4] Adolphe Perier, after the death of his father in December 1833, continued restoring the castle. In 1862, after Adolphe's bankruptcy, the Académie des Beaux-Arts classified the castle as a monument historique and Henry Fontenilliat (step-father of Auguste Casimir-Perier) became the new owner. Two years later, Henri Fontenilliat died; his daughter, Camille (Auguste's wife), inherited the castle.

Assembly of Vizille

The Assembly of Vizille or Estates General of Dauphiné was the result of a meeting of various representatives in Grenoble. Its purpose was to discuss the events of The Day Of The Tiles, one of the first revolts preceding the French Revolution.

Jeu de paume

Jeu de paume is a ball-and-court game that originated in France. It was an indoor precursor of tennis played without racquets, though these were eventually introduced. It is a former Olympic sport, and has the oldest ongoing annual world championship in sport, first established over 250 years ago. Originally spelled jeu de paulme, now it is called "real tennis", court tennis (US) or courte paume (France).

Day of the Tiles

The Day of the Tiles was an event that took place in the French town of Grenoble on 7 June in 1788. It was one of the first disturbances which preceded the French Revolution, and is credited by a few historians as its start.

Henri Ding, La Liberte, also called Marianne (1888). Vizille-chateau-Marianne.jpg
Henri Ding, La Liberté, also called Marianne (1888).

The lessons of the 1825 fire were not learned; on 17 February 1865, a second fire destroyed an L-shaped wing containing the jeu de paume room and a battle gallery built in 1615 by Lesdiguières. They were never rebuilt.

Activity in the castle's printing factory halted. Auguste Casimir-Perier and his wife, Camille, received Philippe d'Orléans (count of Paris) in 1872 and Adolphe Thiers in 1874. For the centenary of the Assembly of Vizille on 21 July 1888, President Sadi Carnot dedicated a statue of Liberty (also called Marianne) in front of the castle. Sculpted by Henri Ding, its pedestal is engraved with sentences from the assembly and the names of representatives of the province of Dauphiné.

Two months after France purchased the castle, La Dépêche dauphinoise mentioned the possibility of a museum. The newspaper mentioned it again on 6 March 1932, specifying a museum of the French Revolution. With the opening that summer of the nearby Napoleon Road, a room was devoted to the history of the castle. After the 1981 election of François Mitterrand, the 2 March 1982 decentralization law permitted a museum dedicated to the French Revolution far from Paris. At its 10 June 1983 meeting, the general council of Isère created a museum of the French Revolution in the castle of Vizille. Two people contributed to the museum's founding: Departmental Archives of Isère director Vital Chomel and historian Robert Chagny, curator of its first temporary exhibition. Others who participated in the collection of the first works were Jacqueline Mongellaz (1984–1990) and Alain Chevalier (since 1988). The first rooms of the museum were set up at the beginning of 1984, and its first director (from 1984 to 1996) was art historian Philippe Bordes. [5]

Former site of the jeu de paume hall Emplacement salle du Jeu de paume, Musee de la revolution francaise - Vizille.jpg
Former site of the jeu de paume hall

The museum was dedicated on 13 July 1984 [6] in the presence of the President of the National Assembly, two ministers, and president of its scientific and technical council Michel Vovelle. In November 1987, work began on the Hall of Columns (later called the Republic Room) two large staircases ascending from the current entrance, and elevator access to all levels of the museum. Two new halls were dedicated on 21 July 1988, but financing difficulties delayed the completion of 600 square metres (6,458 square feet) of the Hall of Columns. When it opened in March 1992, the museum contained twenty rooms on five levels. Since 2010, the site of the former jeu de paume hall (removed in 1865) is indicated by a hedge to the right of the museum entrance.


The museum's themes, in addition to the revolution, are contemporary movements such as Lumières and Romanticism. It features works of art and historical objects from, before and after the revolutionary era.

Chateau de Vizille, home of the museum. Chateau de Vizille (38).JPG
Chateau de Vizille, home of the museum.

The museum is an historical museum based on works of art. These works, more than historical illustrations, are keys to a better understanding of the upheavals and historical context. The paintings and sculptures of the revolutionary era span a variety of styles and genres. The paintings are allegories, historical events, portraits, ancient (or tragic) scenes, and landscapes. Of the statues, several busts are faithful representations of Antoine Barnave, Bailly, Mirabeau, Louis XVII, Robespierre, Danton and his wife Antoinette, and General Lafayette. [7] Statues in a variety of materials include Madame Roland, Saint-Just, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Decorative arts illustrate everyday life: furniture, porcelain, and French, English and Dutch faience. Unique objects are stones from the Bastille, swords from the National Guard, and musical instruments. Drawings, prints, and fragile works (fans, miniatures, and printed fabrics) are protected from light and presented in temporary exhibitions.

Nineteenth-century works include two paintings by Lucien-Étienne Mélingue  [ fr ]: Le matin du 10 Therminor An II (The Morning of 10 Thermidor Year II) [8] (1877) and Jean-Paul Marat (1879), which demonstrate the power of references to the movement which led to the French First Republic in the context of their time.

Statue of Jean-Paul Marat, facing the entrance. Statue de Marat au chateau de Vizille.jpg
Statue of Jean-Paul Marat, facing the entrance.

Alexandre Debelle (curator of the museum of Grenoble) painted The Assembly of Notables in Vizille, 1788 (also known as the Assembly of the Three Orders of the Dauphiné) in 1853, illustrating the Assembly of Vizille; the painting is on the museum third floor, facing the staircase. [9] About 60 Dauphine notables are depicted in the painting, and a sketch underneath helps visitors locate them. They include 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) and Charles Renauldon  [ fr ] on the left, future representative in the Chamber of Representatives and future mayor of Grenoble.

A bronze statue of Jean-Paul Marat, made in 2013 by the Barthélemy Art foundry, replaced Jean Baffier's 1883 version. [10] The sculpture, on the museum's forecourt, was dedicated on 16 July 2013. Baffier's statue was purchased by the city of Paris and installed in several public parks (the Parc Montsouris, the gardens of the Carnavalet Museum and the Parc des Buttes Chaumont) before it was melted down during the Second World War. The stone pedestal supporting the statue contains a quote from Marat's newspaper, L'Ami du peuple .


Portrait by Jacques-Louis David of fellow artist Francois-Seraphin Delpech, in the museum. Jacques-Louis David - MRF - Vizille.jpg
Portrait by Jacques-Louis David of fellow artist François-Séraphin Delpech, in the museum.

The Albert Soboul Library and Documentation Centre provides researchers and students with an important resource of often-rare documentation of the art and history of the French Revolution. Created in June 1982 (shortly before the museum opened), it has occupied two levels of the museum's north wing since 2001. In addition to busts and paintings of revolutionary-era figures, it contains documentation of various aspects of the French Revolution, including its artistic and cultural impacts.

The 27,000-title collection, including 20,000 in history, 3,000 in art history and 4,000 works published between 1750 and 1810, is largely made up of legacies and donations from libraries of French Revolution historians. [11] Acquisitions continue to be made worldwide, and a reserve of 4,500 prints dating to before 1805 is kept at a constant temperature and protected from light.

The library was named in June 2005 for historian Albert Soboul, the foremost French authority on the revolutionary era (who bequeathed his collection of books on the revolution to the museum before his death in 1982). The library was expanded with the libraries of historians Jacques Godechot, Jean-René Suratteau and Roger Barny, which were donated by their families. Visited by researchers from around the world, the library is part of the Bibliothèque municipale de Grenoble network.

Temporary exhibits

Related Research Articles

Dauphiné Place in France

The Dauphiné or Dauphiné Viennois, formerly Dauphiny in English, is a former province in southeastern France, whose area roughly corresponded to that of the present departments of Isère, Drôme, and Hautes-Alpes. The Dauphiné was originally the County of Albon.

Jean Joseph Mounier French politician and judge

Jean Joseph Mounier was a French politician and judge.

Casimir Pierre Périer French statesman

Casimir-Pierre Perier was a prominent French banker, mine owner, political leader and statesman. In business, through his bank in Paris and ownership of the Anzin Coal Co. in the Department of Nord, he contributed significantly to the economic development of France in the early stages of industrialization. In politics, he was a leading liberal member of the Chamber of Deputies throughout the Bourbon Restoration and president of the chamber at the outset of the July Revolution of 1830. He led the liberal-conservative Resistance Party in support of the constitutional monarchy of Louis-Philippe I. He became president of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Interior in the spring of 1831. Although his ministry was brief, his strong government succeeded in restoring order at home and keeping peace abroad. He fell victim to the cholera epidemic in France in 1832.

September Massacres Wave of killings in France in 2–7 Sept. 1792 during the French Revolution, in which half the prison population of Paris (that is, approx. 1200–1400 people) were summarily executed

The September Massacres were a number of killings in Paris and other cities that occurred from 2–4 September 1792 during the French Revolution.

Louis-Michel le Peletier, marquis de Saint-Fargeau French politician

Louis-Michel le Peletier, Marquis of Saint-Fargeau was a French politician and martyr of the French revolution.

Jean-Pierre-André Amar French politician

Jean-Pierre-André Amar or Jean-Baptiste-André Amar was a French political figure of the Revolution and Freemason.

Claude Perier banker

Claude-Nicolas Perier was assured an important place in French history when he opened his Château de Vizille near Grenoble to the famous meeting of the estates of the Province of Dauphiné heralding the coming of the French Revolution. He is notable also as the founder of the remarkable Perier family "bourgeois dynasty" that rose to economic and political influence and prominence in France during the 19th century. Claude's descendents became leading Paris bankers, regents of the Bank of France and owner-directors of Anzin, the major coal mining company of France in the Department of Nord. They were mayors of towns, prefects of departments and members of municipal tribunals and chambers of commerce. Many were elected representatives of departments to the Chamber of Deputies in Paris and appointed to France's Chamber of Peers. Most notably, Casimir Pierre Perier (1777-1832), the fourth of Claude's eight sons, became Prime Minister of France in 1831-32 during the Orleanist monarchy of Louis-Philippe I. Claude's grandson, Jean Casimir-Perier (1847-1907), was elected president of the Third Republic in 1894. Claude Perier was sufficiently wealthy before 1789 to be known as "Perier-Milord" in Grenoble and surroundings, but it was mainly during the decade of revolution 1789-99 that he created the financial underpinning of the Perier dynasty. His eight sons and two daughters would share his legacy of 5,800,000 francs.

Henri Ding French artist

Henri Marius Ding was a French sculptor.

Théodore Ravanat French painter

Théodore Ravanat was a French landscape painter. Ravanat's work is mostly composed of Dauphiné landscapes. His paintings are generally among private collections of Grenoble, but some of these paintings can be seen at the Museum of Grenoble or the Musée dauphinois.

Georges Washington de La Fayette French army officer

Georges Washington Louis Gilbert de La Fayette (1779–1849) was the son of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, the French officer and hero of the American Revolution, and Adrienne de La Fayette.

Museum of Grenoble Art museum, in place Lavalette Grenoble

The Museum of Grenoble is a municipal museum of Fine Arts and antiquities in the city of Grenoble in the Isère region of France.

Joseph Marie Servan de Gerbey French general

Joseph Marie Servan de Gerbey was a French general. During the Revolution he served twice as Minister of War and briefly led the Army of the Western Pyrenees. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 33.

Johann Friedrich Dryander German artist

Johann Friedrich Dryander was a German painter.

Claude-François de Payan was a political figure of the French Revolution.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Grenoble, France.



Coordinates: 45°04′32″N5°46′23″E / 45.07556°N 5.77306°E / 45.07556; 5.77306