Musée d’Angoulême has a fine collection worth visiting, with the golden Celtic helmet as a unique masterpiece. It is a mixture of archaeology, ethnography and fine arts, presented with care and good guidance.
Looking for the archaeological museum of Angoulême, find the Musée d’Angoulême on the backside of the cathedral Saint Pierre. I had some struggle finding it. There are few signs indicating where the museum is. Once arrived, you go through a beautiful entrance. The 12th century roman tower of the cathedral looks down upon the visitors in all its magnificence.
Entrance is only 5 euro (in 2020) and I was told the ticket gives me a 50% reduction for the Paper Museum that I never heard of. Angoulême still has some work to do to attract interested visitors… This also goes for the language: everything is in French only. The information given is great, thorough and lively – if you speak the language. See the image here on the right about objects found in this region deriving from the Bronze Age.
The archaeological collection is on the ground floor. The website gave the warning that most of the older archaeological findings of this region are in other museums but I must say the Musée d’Angoulême presents very well what they do have. Even prehistorical items took my immediate attention. Prehistory is a period that I usually skip because I prefer the period from 10.000BC until the Romans, but not in Musée d’Angoulême.
The rock that the Musée d’Angoulême placed against the wall to show the findings of a dinosaure skeleton is very special! Moreover, the findings of the Neanderthaler and Cromagnon Humans are local: it is here that they lived. That, in combination with an excellent presentation, makes it special.
I liked a movie about the dolmen, telling that originally there was much more to the structure than just the big rocks that are left over. As the dolmen are older that the pyramids in Egypt, the Musée d’Angoulême calls them the ‘oldest architectural structure in the world’. But that is incorrect: the – presumed – temples of Göbekli Tepe are much older. Nevertheless it was new for me that dolmen were at the center of bigger constructions. The movie gives great images of what they must have looked like.
There are many nice objects, I show 3 of them here that I particularly liked:
- The Heads of Jarnac, images meant to keep ancestors close. The faces have their own individuality. West-Celtic (Gaule de l’Ouest) dating 1st or 2nd Century BC.
2. One of those ‘simple’ but very beautiful pieces to be found in Bronze Age collections. The fine art work on top would seduce me to buy it, if available in shops today…
3. Chess came to Western Europe from India via the Arab world in the 10th century. These are among the oldest pieces ever found. Trictrac was also a known game. Both were played with dice at the time.
On the first floor, a large collection of ethnography can be visited, mostly from Oceania, the Maghreb and some African countries. No opinion on that from my side. I paid a visit to the second floor for the ‘fine arts’ of the Musée d’Angoulême. It appears to be a mixture of art objects like porcelain and many paintings, some valuable, some not worth to be put into a museum. 3 paintings took my attention:
Jeune taureau sautant la barrière, by Rosa Bonheur (19th century). Rosa Bonheur lived in a time where women were not allowed to go to art schools, however she found a way to learn how to paint. She made a great reputation with paintings of horses and cows. To go to animal markets and slaughter houses, she dressed up like a man to have access – just like the contemporary female writer George Sand was doing to be accepted. Rosa Bonheur was the first woman to be decorated with the great cross of the Legion d’Honneur.
Amid the many paintings of very different value, suddenly a real 17th century Van Der Helst painting. It is called ‘Portrait of a young Dutch gentleman and his wife‘ , not sure if this was the description or the real title. Anyway a surprising work of art in the collection.
And last but ot least, an intriguing piece of work by Pierre Auguste Vafflard, made in 1804: Young et sa fille. This is an incredible story about the English poet Edward Young who went to France with his daughter while she was ill, in the hope to get her cured. Helas, she dies at the age of 18 in Lyon. Being protestant in a catholic country, he is only allowed to bury here at night in the graveyard of the Swiss colony – and he has to do it himself. So here is the painting where he carries his deceased daughter to her grave at night. A true masterpiece – with apologies for the imperfect photograph.
Other places to visit in this region:
Vesunna Museum Périgueux
Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord
Aubeterre Underground Church