The medieval world for everyone!
About the reopening of the Cluny Museum in Paris on 12 May 2022.
The Cluny Museum is making the buzz! And this time, not only for its famous Lady of the Unicorn, this masterly hanging rediscovered by George Sand in 1841, in which you must come and get lost at least once in your life. The reopening of the establishment after modernisation work, on 12 May 2022 in Paris, is announced on its website as an invitation to come and discover the "New Generation Middle Ages". Come on, the Middle Ages are also moving into the 21st century and getting a facelift.
So here is yet another new turn for this extraordinary place built on top of the Roman baths. This place, which is one of the most monumental ancient remains in Northern Europe, houses the chapel of the former abbots of Cluny as well as a private mansion. This rare place nestled in the heart of the French capital, where an antiquities enthusiast settled in 1832 to display his personal collection. It must be said that its museography had hardly changed since the 1950s, some time after the State bought the place... so it was clearly time for something to happen.
The enactment of the laws on accessibility for people with reduced mobility of course gave a serious boost to the new modernisation project. With its twenty-eight different levels, it is not hard to imagine that many visitors would not be able to admire all the works of art scattered throughout the floors of this historic millefeuille! Now, the contemporary pavilion with its golden sheen, designed by architect Bernard Desmoulin, not only brings more light to the Musée de Cluny, but also provides more functional reception areas and replaces the formerly labyrinthine circulation with a functional access made up of ramps and lifts.
However, it is not only the physical access that has been redesigned: the tour route has been completely changed. The chronological order has been changed so that the average person can find their way around the more than one thousand years of epic stories told in works of art: welcome to the medieval world accessible to all.
It is certain that there was a serious sorting out to be done. When the famous Alexandre du Sommerard (1779-1842) died, this counsellor-master at the Court of Auditors having brought together his collection of some 1500 medieval art objects at the Hôtel de Cluny, the State made such a great deal of money by buying the whole thing and getting the City of Paris to hand over the baths and their lapidary deposit, that the Musée de Cluny, officially born in 1843 from several mergers, and whose collections were constantly enriched during the forty years of management by Alexandre du Sommerard's son... Today, the museum has more than 23,000 works! From the votive crowns of the treasure of Guarrazar to the remains of the Gallery of the Kings, including countless religious objects of breathtaking refinement, precious ivories, masterpieces of Limoges enamel, 14th century sculptures paving the way for naturalism, stained glass windows from the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, armour, furniture, altarpieces and, of course, the six tapestries that make up the Lady of the Unicorn hanging, always presented as an apotheosis to the visit... there is truly something to feast your eyes on.
The bold idea behind the "New Generation" scenography is to have made a choice. Of the 1,800 works of art that were visible before the work was done, 200 have been returned to storage. This makes it immediately clearer.