Nice 2017
Logo exposition Ecoles(s) de Nice
Exhibitions 23 June~15 october

Musée Masséna

Nice in the School of History

23 June to 15 October 2017

Lead curator :
Jean-Jacques Aillagon, assisted by Aymeric Jeudy

Exhibition and graphic design :
Kristof Everart & Marcel Bataillard


65, rue de France
Tél. : +33(0)4 93 91 19 10

Opening times
Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays) from 10 am to 6 pm


  • Tramway : Line 1 - Masséna
  • Bus : Line 03, 07, 09, 22, 27, 59, 70
  • Vélo bleu : Station n° 58
  • Car : Palais Masséna car park

Tarifs des entrées :

  • Pass Musées de Nice : pass offert à tous les Niçois et habitants des communes de la Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur sur justificatif. *
  • Ticket 24H individuel - 10 € (8 € pour les groupes) : accès à tous les musées et galeries municipaux pendant 24h.
  • Ticket 7 jours individuel - 20 € : accès à tous les musées et galeries municipaux pendant 7 jours.
  • Ticket groupe 24H - 8 € par personne : accès à tous les musées et galeries municipaux pendant 24h (groupe à partir de 10 personnes).
  • Ticket gratuit (sur justificatif) : moins de 18 ans, étudiants, demandeurs d’emplois, bénéficiaires du RSA ou ASS ou ASPA, grand handicapés civils et mutilés de guerre ainsi qu’un accompagnateur par personne, conservateurs, journalistes, enseignants carte Pass Education, guide conférencier. *

* Voir les modalités en détails sur

Musée Masséna

Le musée Masséna est abrité dans la Villa Masséna, conçue dans un style néoclassique, entre 1898 et 1901, par les architectes Aaron Messiah et Hans-Georg Tersling, pour le compte de Victor d’Essling (1836-1910), petit-fils du maréchal niçois André Masséna (1758-1817). Ses jardins ont été dessinés par le paysagiste Édouard André.
Dernière grande villa d’apparat construite sur la Promenade des Anglais, et l’une des seules toujours visible de nos jours, elle est cédée à la Ville de Nice, en 1918, sous condition d’y aménager un musée et d’ouvrir le jardin au public. Le musée Masséna est ainsi inauguré en 1921. Après plusieurs années de restauration, le musée réouvre ses portes au public le 1er mars 2008 sur la base d’un projet scientifique et culturel réaffirmant la vocation d’histoire locale du musée. Le dernier étage de la Villa abrite, quant à lui, la bibliothèque du chevalier Victor de Cessole. Sa collection de peintures et de sculptures s’est enrichie au fil des années et comporte aujourd’hui 13 000 pièces de mobiliers, peintures, sculptures et objets d’art qui constituent un témoignage riche et varié de l’histoire de Nice. Ce musée a accueilli, depuis sa réouverture, huit expositions temporaires dont Palmettes, Palmes et Palmiers dans le cadre de la programmation « Nice 2013. Un été pour Matisse » et La Promenade ou l’invention d’une ville dans le cadre de la programmation « Nice 2015. Promenade(S) des Anglais ».

In complement to the exhibition at the MAMAC « About Nice: 1947-1977 » presenting the moment in art history when Nice established its own school, the exhibition at the Musée Masséna explores, over a longer period of time, some of those times when Nice was propelled onto the world stage.

Portrait of a city and its region

Nice’s history can be traced back to prehistoric times. Some 400,000 years ago, humankind tamed fire somewhere on a beach at Terra Amata, now an archaeological site. Flash forward several hundred millennia and another invention would shape Nice’s destiny forever: the ‘invention of the Mediterranean’ by the Greeks who founded a colony on the shores that would prove to be enduring: Nikaïa.

The powerful Roman Empire would establish a city, Cemenelum (now Cimiez), in this region that would determine its future as an important urban centre: Nice is now France's fifth city. A region formed all around Cemenelum stretching from the sea to the mountains: the province of Alpes Maritimae, the name the département still bears today. The indigenous Celto-Liguran civilisations gradually settled in these new surroundings. The subsequent fusion of people became one of the city’s most distinctive and long-lasting traits, Nice becoming a melting pot of cultures that the cosmopolitanism of the 19th century reignited in spectacular fashion. Christianity slipped into this part of the country and, over several centuries, turned the city towards a spiritual horizon that saw the city participate in one of Europe's most sweeping cultural endeavours. From the barbaric invasions when the Wisigoths and Ostrogoths shared the region until the cession of the county of Nice to France in 1860, Nice was pushed back and forth between the dominant political systems of the East and West, between Kingdom and Empire, between Provence and Savoy that subsequently became the Kingdom of Sardinia, and then between France and Italy. Nice cultivated a reputation as market town and a border city, but also a hub for people and trade. From the 1760s to the 1960s, the city grew exponentially following the ‘invention of tourism’, a powerful social phenomenon. The ‘new’ Nice that emerged is one that the city hopes to inscribe on the World Heritage List.

It is these encounters with history that have shaped the character of the city. The sombre moments the city experienced in the 20th and 21st centuries failed to extinguish its joie de vivre, to use the title of a painting by Henri Matisse who produced much of his work in Nice.

A museum for the imagination including masterpieces through the ages

The exhibition proposes a journey through several millennia of the history of Nice and highlights ways in which it has intersected world history, sketching a portrait of the city made up of a selection of masterpieces through the ages.

In each section of the exhibition, which occupies the entire second floor of the Musée Masséna, over 200 pieces—from the most distinguished masterpieces to the most evocative archaeological fragments—chart a fascinating and carefully-planned trail through the history of Nice and its region.

This chronology, which has been painstakingly designed, will take the visitor on a tour of so many diverse works. Indeed, in the first section dedicated to the ‘invention of fire’, a prehistoric two-sided pebble, a symbol of the history of humankind as it emerged several hundred millennia ago, will be shown alongside works by 20th century artists such as the celebrated Feu d’artifice à Nice [Fireworks, Nice] by Raoul Dufy, the review Les Miroirs Profonds, Pierre à feu illustrated by Henri Matisse and Les Silences de la fumée [Smoke’s Silence] by Noël Dolla.
In the second part, archaeological finds depicting Greek settlements in Nice can be seen next to Méditerranée by Aristide Maillol, un Grand olivier by Louis Cane or La cueillette des oranges à Cimiez [The Orange Picker] by Berthe Morisot.
The assimilation of the Romans and the Celto-Liguran populations, in the Mediterranean hinterland, will be colourfully illustrated in the third section dedicated to the ‘invention of the city’. You can also get to see a gem of Celto-Liguran art, the Hermès bicéphale by Roquepertuse, which will stand opposite the Masque Tragique by Paul Tissier, a monumental representation of Antiquity at the society parties held in Nice in the early 20th century. This part will end with a photograph of Nice ‘huddled between the Mediterranean and the foothills of the Alpes Maritimes’, taken by Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut with the European Space Agency, from the International Space Station.
Like Jacob’s ladder stretching up to the heavens, this journey through time continues with works evoking the irruption of Christianity, the hope of salvation and the road to heaven onto Europe’s cultural landscape. For nearly two millennia, this landscape would mould the cities and countryside, including Nice, so rich in chapels, churches, domes and bells, landmarks of this great collective endeavour. Testaments to this period of history include a capital from the former cathedral on the Colline du Château hilltop, the predellas from a reredo by Ludovico Brea and a model of the modern Joan of Arc church.
The fifth section winds forward in time and explores the region carved out between the East and West with Wisigothic and Ostrogothic jewellery exhibited alongside a work by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) depicting the Truce of Nice and the famous meeting that never happened between Francis I and Charles V, an equestrian statue of Louis XIV who bombarded the city, and other exceptional pieces such as the original Traité relatif à la réunion de la Savoie et de l’arrondissement de Nice à la France the original treaty loaned by France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Last but no means least, the sixth section, devoted to the ‘invention of tourism’, will feature a canvas depicting the first regattas in Nice by Achille Clément as well as a series of canes from the 19th century and a bathing costume from the 1930s, conveying the emergence of Nice as a cosmopolitan city devoted to ‘aristocratic, climate-seeking holidaying’, the precursor to ‘tourism’, and of which the Promenade des Anglais, painted by Angelo Garino and photographed by Martin Parr, would become the iconic symbol.

This exhibition was made possible with resources from the collections of museums and municipal institutions that have contributed, each in its own specific area of expertise, to this historic and artistic portrait.
This local heritage is completed with exceptional loans from some fifty museums, institutions and private collectors in France and all over Europe.

Exhibition visual:
'Étoiles du Sud' bathing costume, ca 1930, © France, Paris, Les Arts décoratifs / Jean Tholance, all rights reserved
Faune dansant, Époque augustéenne, © France, Ville de Nice, Musée d’archéologie, site in Cimiez
Graphic design: © Marcel Bataillard, all rights reserved