Let yourself be enchanted by the enchanting world of Strasbourg's Musée des Arts Décoratifs, where history and aesthetics come together to take you on a timeless journey back to the French period from 1681 to 1871.
From the masterpieces of Hannong ceramics to the sumptuous bedrooms and magnificent library, each room is a treasure trove of art. Follow me as I take you on a tour of Strasbourg's Museum of Decorative Arts.
What is Arts Décoratifs?
But before you start your visit, you might be asking yourself this question: what are the Decorative Arts? It's an art form that aims to create functional objects that are both beautiful and useful. These objects often have a practical role and can be used in our daily lives, while at the same time being particularly aesthetically pleasing.
The decorative arts encompass a wide variety of techniques and styles, from pottery and glassmaking to sewing and metalwork. The objects created can be anything from a clock to an earthenware stove or a beautifully upholstered armchair.
The collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg
Strasbourg's Musée des Arts Décoratifs is a treasure trove for lovers of art and history. The collection includes a wide variety of objects, from earthenware from the porcelain and faience manufactory of the brothers Jean and Paul Hannong, to pieces from the Niderviller faience factory and works by the Strasbourg goldsmith dynasties Kirstein and Imlin.
The pieces on display trace the diversity and development of Strasbourg's applied arts from 1681 to 1870, particularly in the fields of furniture, ceramics, clocks and goldsmiths.
But the museum is not limited to the decorative arts. Since it was built, the Palais Rohan has played host to a number of important figures, including Louis XV and foreign princesses visiting before their marriage to a French sovereign. The museum showcases the flats, which have been reconstructed to a high standard of technical and artistic execution. You can discover the history and art of the French period from 1681 to 1871 through the magnificently decorated rooms.
The rooms are arranged chronologically to provide a clear understanding of the development of decorative art in Strasbourg. The library and chapel add an extra charm to the visit.
The King's bedroom
The King's bedroom, also known as the canopy room, is a prestigious room whose function was to host the prince's rising and bedtime ceremonies, according to the etiquette in force at the Château de Versailles. The room is characterised by its carved, painted and gilded oak panelling and its stuccoed ceiling in the Rocaille style.
The library, the last room in the series of grand flats, features solid mahogany bookcases topped with tapestries framing portraits of Louis XIV and Louis XV. Antique busts, Chinese vases, a bust portrait of the cardinal by Bouchardon and an Indo-Portuguese embroidered table rug are also on display.
The Hannong earthenware factory
In 1721, brothers Jean and Paul Hannong set up an earthenware factory in Strasbourg that quickly became one of the most prestigious in Europe. The finesse and quality of their production won over the courts of Europe, from France to Russia. Hannong Strasbourg earthenware was particularly appreciated for its polychrome floral and animal decoration, its yellow background technique known as "Hannong yellow", and its production of porcelain objects, which were very rare in Europe at the time. A visit to the museum will reveal an exceptional collection of these unique pieces.
The bedroom of Napoleon 1st
Napoleon 1st's bedroom is the museum's other must-see room. More intimate than the royal flats, it was given to Napoleon by the city of Strasbourg in 1806 to thank the Emperor for his protection during the Napoleonic Wars.
The room was fitted out with furniture made by the famous cabinetmaker Jacob-Desmalter in 1807, but only the bed has survived. The chairs, delivered in 1809, were salvaged from the Empress's drawing room. Although the Emperor never used this room, it was occupied by King Charles X in 1829.
My opinion of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg
I have to say that I was impressed by the quality of the reconstruction of the rooms and the richness of the collections. The different styles and periods are magnificently represented, offering an exceptional visual experience.
However, this is an 'old-fashioned' museum that clearly lacks an attractive, interactive touch to make the collections more accessible. The itinerary is not always clear, which can make the visit confusing, especially at the exit.
Here are some tips for visiting the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg:
- Allow at least two hours for the visit, or even more if you want to delve deeper into certain aspects of the collection.
- Don't miss the Hannong earthenware collection, as well as the Kirstein and Imlin silverware.
- The flats of the Rohan cardinals, the King's bedroom, Napoleon I's bedroom and the library are all must-sees.
- If you have the time, make a diversion to the nearby Musée de l'Œuvre Notre-Dame to discover the decorative art of Strasbourg's earlier generations and the construction of Strasbourg cathedral.
- Don't hesitate to use the audio guides to enrich your visit with additional commentary and anecdotes.
The museum is open every day except Tuesday and Thursday, from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 6pm.
The full price is €7.50, the reduced price €3.50.
- If you are planning to visit several of the city's museums, in particular the Museum of Fine Arts or the Archaeological Museum, both located in the Palais Rohan, I recommend that you take the Pass Musée 1 Jour, available from the museum ticket office.
- Visits to the museum are free on the 1st Sunday of each month and during Heritage Days. On the other hand, it's a bit more crowded.
- The Strasbourg City Card gives you a 50% discount on the normal admission price. The pass also gives you discounts for 7 days on many other visits and activities.
Strasbourg City Card - 7-Day City Pass
Explore Strasbourg with a 7-day city pass that offers discounted rates for attractions and activities. Climb up the Strasbourg Cathedral, take a guided walking tour, or visit the Château Vodou Museum.