GROUND FLOOR 11 - 15
Marcel Puech Room
This large room is very conducive to seeing the main aspects of the Puech collection – paintings, sculptures, art works and old drawings (changing display). Mr. Puech gave the Calvet Foundation more than 1000 drawings by great Masters from the 15th to the 20th centuries. The drawings are primarily Italian (Veronese, Tintoretto, Algardi), and French (Le Sueur, Watteau, Boucher). From this room, you can choose two itineraries – either continue on straight to the Egyptian rooms, or go to the left towards the rooms on artistic creation in Avignon from the Renaissance to the French Revolution..
Egyptian Rooms (audioguide)
The Egyptian section at the museum contains objects bequeathed by Esprit Calvet (1728-1810). His collections were built to a large extent from works from the great 17th and 18th–century Southern French collections (Bon de Saint¬Hilaire, Calvière, Pichony).
These three rooms have magnificent rococo décor, restored in 2010 by the Calvet Foundation, which dates from the construction of the Villeneuve¬Martignan mansion.
They display several major works: The Head of a Vizier, Inv. A 44, and the Canopic jar, Inv. A 1 15A , are from the collection assembled by Bon de Saint¬Hilaire (1678-1761), a magistrate from Montpellier. Works collected by Esprit Calvet from other Southern French collections such as those assembled by Canon Pichony from Nîmes (1711-1785) and Marquis de Calvière (1693-1777), lieutenant general in King Louis XV’s armies, distinguished at the Battle of Fontenoy (1745) are also displayed here.
Also, the Count de Caylus (1692-1765), a great scholar, a member of the best Parisian society, who long exchanged letters with Esprit Calvet, is represented here by an Isis lactans, Inv. A 240, which still has its elegant base lined with tortoiseshell.
In the 19th century, the Calvet Foundation was able to acquire several Egyptian works, as trade in this field was free at the time. From the outstanding collection put together by the Mayor of Aix-en-Provence, François Sallier (1764-1832) come Fragment of the Tomb of Nebamon, inv. A 51, and the Book of the Celestial Cow, Inv. A 8, and also the extraordinary Mummy of a Child, Inv. A 84, certainly one of the most surprising elements in this display.
Calvet Cabinet (scheduled to open in 2014)
This room, once Esprit Calvet’s library, will display a selection of the main pieces comprising the Calvet bequest – ancient coins, the statuette of an Etruscan divinity, the epitaph for Borysthenes (the horse of Roman Emperor Hadrian), a proto-historic bronze sword, an ivory olifant from Sierra Leone, the tusk of a narwhal from a Peruvian collection, statues of Vishnu and Parvâtî forged in southern India, and minerals and fossils. Esprit Calvet’s curiosity knew no bounds!
Saint Priest Rooms (audioguide)
Crossing back through the Egyptian rooms and the Puech room, the visitor enters the first room devoted to artistic creation in Avignon from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. Looking at works by several major artists takes the visitor back to Altera Roma, when Avignon was the other Rome, the “chiming” city, as described by Rabelais, full of the chapels of the Penitents, of convents, and parishes filled with works of art. Despite destruction over time, the importance and the continuity of the Avignon cultural current during the three centuries between 1500 and 1791 (when Avignon became part of France) can still be felt. Simon de Mailly, known as Simon de Châlons, the brothers Nicolas and Pierre Ier Mignard, Pierre II Mignard, Reynaud Levieux, Louis Parrocel and his son Pierre Parrocel, are among the best¬known painters who worked in Avignon during the period.
Also note two outstanding works – first The Artist’s Easel (1686) by the Italian painter Forbera, a rare example of trompe-l’œil with a slightly less than religious subject that once hung in the Val-de-Bénédiction Charterhouse in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon...
The other major work is the Ivory Crucifix by Jean Guillermin (1622-1699). According to legend, Guillermin was able to redeem the life of his nephew if he donated this masterpiece to the Brotherhood of the Black-hooded Penitents in Avignon, in 1659. The story is not true, but it does indicate the high worth of this sculpture of unrivalled finesse.
Salle Berti (scheduled to open in 2015)
Future plans call for several rooms devoted to the changes which marked Avignon after becoming part of France in 1791. The growth in regionalist sentiment, possibly a reaction, will be approached through the emblematic character of writer Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914), author of Mireille, 1904 Nobel Prize for literature. This path will lead the visitor through the upheaval of World War I and the first half of the 20th century.