Welcome to the Ariana, the Swiss museum for ceramics and glass !
Coming into this building, you must have been struck by the sumptuous character of the large entrance hall where you find yourself at this moment. This decor makes a statement, at the very least... in fact, it's the kind of emphatic declaration that you certainly don't expect to find in our Calvinist Geneva !
This daring architectural statement and eclectic style - where neo-renaissance elements mix with the neo-baroque (a typical potpourri found at the end of the 19th century) - is the expression of the very personal project of Gustave Revilliod, who was born in 1817, and who died in 1890. The man who would become one of Geneva's great patrons was also a very active collector, in very varied fields, covering practically every historical period and different civilization.
On your left, under the colonnade, is Revilliod's bust. Beside it, to his left, the figure of his beloved mother, Ariane Revilliod-de la Rive.
It was shortly after her death in 1876 that Revilliod decided to build a museum worthy of his collections, a museum that would also educate his fellow citizens... while honouring his mother's memory, having named the building after her.
Construction work began in 1878 and finished in 1884. That was the year that Revilliod proudly opened Geneva's first encyclopedic museum. In fact, at the time, the Ariana was home to all his collected treasures: not only ceramics and glass, but also paintings, sculpture, engravings & prints, arms & armour, coins, old books and all sorts of other objects made in Europe, in Asia and North Africa.
Upon the death of Gustave Revilliod in Cairo, in 1890, the City of Geneva inherited the museum and its collections. But after the opening of the Museum of Art & History in the city centre in 1910, the Ariana was gradually forgotten... until, in 1934, the municipal authorities decided to make the Ariana an annex of the Art & History Museum, specializing in ceramics and glass.
This visit will take you through the ground-floor rooms where you will find most of our masterpieces. It will show you how the modest work of the potter has evolved down the centuries, to become little by little a craftsman's art worthy of the most glittering courts of Europe. You'll also see that since the Middle Ages, the evolution of ceramic know-how in Europe has been closely linked to innovations coming from the other side of the world: for example, the invention of porcelain... in China.
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