Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille  

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Highlights include Jacques-Louis David's Belisarius Begging for Alms, the first Neo-Classical painting, Courbet's After Dinner at Ornans, The Birth of Venus by Amaury Duval and Puvis de Chavannes Sleep.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille (Lille Palace of Fine Arts) is one of the largest museums in France, and the largest French museum outside of Paris.

It was one of the first museums built in France, established under the instructions of Napoleon I at the beginning of the 19th century as part of the popularisation of art : The Chaptal decree of 1801 selects fifteen French cities (among which Lille) to receive the works seized from churches and from the territories occupied by the armies of Revolutionary France. The painters Louis Joseph Watteau and François Watteau, known as the "Watteau of Lille", were heavily involved in the museum's beginnings - Louis Joseph Watteau made in 1795 the first inventory of the paintings confiscated during the Revolution, whilst his son François was deputy curator of the museum from 1808 to 1823.

The museum opened in 1809 and was initially housed in a church confiscated from the Récollets before being transferred to the city's town hall. In 1866 the "musée Wicar" (formed from the collection of Jean-Baptiste Wicar) was merged into the Palais des Beaux-Arts. Construction of the Palais's current Belle Époque-style building began in 1885 under the direction of Géry Legrand, mayor of Lille, and it was completed in 1892. The architects chosen to design the new building were Bérard and Delmas from Paris. The building is located on the place de la République, in the center of the city, facing the préfecture of Lille. It was renovated during the 90s and reopened in 1997.

At the start of the 1990s the building's poor state and the moving of Vauban's relief models of fortified towns to Lille forced the town to renovate the building. Work began in 1991, under the architects Jean-Marc Ibos and Myrto Vitart, and was completed in 1997. This allowed the creation of a new 700 m² basement room for temporary exhibitions, as well as departments for the relief models and for 19th-century sculpture. Overall the museum covers 22000 m², the second largest collection in France after the Louvre. Its sculptures, paintings, drawings, ceramics and so on include works by Raphael, Donatello, Van Dyck, Tissot, Jordaens, Rembrandt, Goya, El Greco, David, Corot, Courbet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Delacroix, Rubens, Rodin, Claudel and Jean-Baptiste Chardin.



Antiquities, Middle Ages and Renaissance

  • Ascension of the Elect, Dirk Bouts, oil on wood (c 1450)
  • Fall of the Damned, Dirk Bouts, oil on wood (c 1450)
  • Portrait of man, skull in a niche, Barthel Bruyn l'Ancien, oil on wood
  • Three donors with Saint John the Baptist, Barthel Bruyn le Jeune, oil on wood
  • The Virgin and the Sleeping Jesus, Joos van Cleve, oil on wood (16th century)
  • The Virgin nursing the Infant Jesus, Joos van Cleve, oil on wood (16th century)
  • Christ blessing the Virgin, Jacob Cornelisz van Amsterdam, oil on wood (16th century)
  • The Virgin, the Infant Jesus and saint Cecilia, Domenico Panetti
  • Trinity, triptych of Marchiennes, Jean Bellegambe, oil on wood (c 1510)
  • Triptych of the mystic bath, Jehan Bellegambe, oil on wood (1510)
  • Feast of Herod, Donatello, marble (vers 1435)
  • Vanity, Jan Sanders van Hemessen, oil on wood (c 1535-1540)
  • Virgin and Child surrounded by angels, Master of the foliage in embroidery, triptych, oil on wood (c 1495-1500)
  • Portraits of Louis de Quarre and Barbe de Cruysinck as donors ; saint Barbara and saint Louis on foot under arcades, Master of the foliage in embroidery, oil on wood (c 1495-1500)
  • The Virgin in glory amidst the apostles, Master of the Lyversberg Passion, oil on wood (c 1460-1480)
  • Adoration of the Shepherds, Maîster of the Lille Adoration, oil on wood (1520)
  • Preaching of saint John the Baptist, Master of the Lille Preaching, oil on wood (1530-1540)
  • Vierge au lait, Maître des Madones mosanes, marble (c 1350)
  • Adoration of the Magi, Maître MS, oil on wood (c 1506-1510)
  • Saint Dorothea and Saint Mary Magdalen, Master of saint-Séverin, two panels, oil on wood (1480-1520)
  • The Resurrection and La Vierge du rosaire, anonymous, South German, oil on wood (c 1480-1490)
  • Adoration of the Magi, anonymous, triptych, oil on wood (c 1510-1520)
  • Saint Henri and saint Cunégonde, saint Jerome and a bishop saint, predella of the retable of saint George, anonymous, Tyrol, oil on wood (c 1520)
  • Saint John the Baptist and saint Catherine, anonymous, German, oil on wood (16th century)
  • Saint Barbara and two saints, anonymous, German, oil on wood (16th century)
  • Sketch for Paradise, Veronese, oil on wood

17th-century paintings

18th- and 19th-century paintings

20th-century paintings


Prints and drawings

  • Preparatory drawing for the "Alba Madonna". Seated man wearing a shirt, bare arms., Raphael (c 1511)

Collection of "plans-reliefs"

Curator, director of the Palais des Beaux-Arts

  • Alain Tapié (present)
  • Arnaud Brejon de Lavergnée
  • Albert Châtelet

Expositions temporaires


  • Le Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille par Alain Tapié, Marie-Françoise Bouttemy, Annie Castier, et Dominique Delgrange aux éditions Réunion des musées nationaux, ISBN 2-7118-5222-9
  • Les Plans en relief des places fortes du Nord : dans les collections du Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille by Isabelle Warmoes, ISBN 2-85056-838-4
  • Catalogue des dessins italiens : Collection du Palais des beaux-arts de Lille, aux éditions Réunion des musées nationaux, ISBN 2-7118-3392-5

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