Archaeology is fine with us, but never draws a resounding cheer (whereas art does), so we took the elevator up to the second floor and decided we’d work our way down. On the second floor is the Beaux Arts—Fine Arts—section, with the displays arranged chronologically. It began, therefore, with lots of 15th and 16th century religious paintings, but soon progressed to more secular art: vast landscapes, inspirations from Greek mythology (satyrs and nymphs and Gods up to no good), scenes of everyday life, and portraits of the rich and famous. This gallery reads like a who’s who of European art: Romney, Rodin, Veronese, Hogarth, and all my favourite Impressionists—Corot, Monet, Pissarro, et al. Having already seen some of the extremely impressive work of the Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler at Bern’s Kunstmusuem, we were especially delighted to find more of his work here, even though most of it was just self-portraits.
Having gaped in wonder at a stunningly erotic and tasteful life-size marble statue of Venus and Adonis, we made our way down to the next gallery, Arts Decoratifs—the Decorative (Applied) Arts. This is distributed across two floors, the upper (the first floor) containing displays of musical instruments, silverware, pewter and some restored rooms of the Castle of Zizers. The ground floor has exhibitions of arms and armour, furniture, and some more restored rooms.
By the time we arrived at the Applied Arts section, Tarun had discovered a blister on his sole and opted out. He sat down on one of the numerous benches and chairs around (there’s even a café at the museum, though we didn’t visit it), while I went on to the first floor, with its musical instruments, many of them of Italian origin, all beautifully inlaid and carved. Beyond these were gleaming displays of silverware, massive soup tureens, bowls, plate, vases, cutlery and whatnot, all so brilliantly polished that I could see my dishevelled reflection in them. Past the sections on pewter and ivory, I arrived at the restored rooms of the Castle of Zizers, which have some grand furniture, particularly cupboards and cabinets covered with carving and marquetry. These galleries were, to my surprise, completely deserted: except for the occasional docent, there was nobody around. It got especially weird after one of the docents—a tall, middle-aged woman—began trailing me through the rooms. This looked suspicious (or was she suspicious of me?), so after bestowing a dazzling smile on her (and getting a slightly bemused one in return), I scurried off to the Applied Arts section on the ground floor.
A large section of the Applied Arts gallery on the ground floor is devoted to weaponry and armour: fancy guns inlaid with ivory, spiffy powder horns and pistols, huge helmets and polished armour. Also on this floor were more restored state rooms, this time more cheerful, with a couple of other visitors, so the docents weren’t quite so obviously on the prowl. The state rooms, with their carved wooden ceilings, their walls hung with paintings and tapestries, and their gorgeously carved furniture, are, in my opinion, the best part of this section.
By this time, Tarun—whom I could see by peeking over a stone railing—was looking bored and impatient, so I took a quick tour through the section on applied arts in other parts of Europe. This has, for example, some beautifully painted urns and other pottery from Greece and Rome. I just about managed to get a peek at these before rushing back to Tarun, who had by now decided he was better off sitting in the park opposite the museum (it is pretty, by the way—in fact, a good spot for a picnic lunch if you plan to spend a leisurely day at the museum).
The Archaeology section, according to our free English-language map of the museum, contains sections on prehistory, Egypt, Kerma (a Nubian state), Greece, Etruria and Rome. I wish we’d had more time so we could’ve seen these galleries too; if they’re anything like the rest of the museum, it would be worth it. No photography is allowed inside the museum, by the way—so you can pack that camera away.
Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
New Delhi, India
July 6, 2009
From journal A Few Hours in Geneva
March 5, 2007
From journal Working the U.N. in Geneva, Part II
October 7, 2006
From journal A Few Days in Geneva
Santa Monica, California
July 22, 2001
The upper ground floor houses the applied arts and has temporary exhibitions, silveware and pewterware and parts of the Castle of Zizers. The temporary exhibition I saw was an interesting display of modern art collages.
The ground floor (main entrance level) also contains applied arts and temporary exhibitions. There's also an armour room and stained-glass windows from the Middle-Ages.
The lower ground floor is the archaeology exhibits with items from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. There's also a coffee bar called "Barocco", a courtyard and a small bookstore if you want to take a break and relax.
The museum is worth a visit if you're in Geneva, but I wouldn't travel across the world just to see it. It was a nice way to pass a rainy day though.
From journal Living in Geneva