Applied Arts Department
A department of plural dimensions
The Department of Applied Arts, created in 1995, holds various collections dating from the end of Antiquity to modern times. They are characterised above all by their diversity and that of the objects they contain, ranging from halberds to Byzantine crosses, from silver teapots to flags, from chests of drawers to harpsichords, and from tapestries to icons. This variety and richness, already in evidence from the beginnings of the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, make up the very essence of this department.
The Byzantine collection, which was largely developed in the middle of the 1970s thanks to some major acquisitions, is one of the most prestigious to be found in the Museum and even all of Switzerland. It attained world-class status following the extraordinary Janet Zakos bequest of 2004 that now occupies a dedicated room. This collection is exceptionally rich in silverwork, liturgical objects, tableware and mirrors, bronzes from the end of Antiquity and the early years of the Byzantine Empire, and 13th-century ceramics. The Byzantine and Coptic pieces presented in the adjoining room complete this display devoted to the major forms of Oriental Christian art from the end of Antiquity to the medieval period.
- Votive hand
Syria – Palestine, 6th century
Height 15 cm, width 10 cm
MAH, inv. AA 2004-200
The Museum’s group of icons is the largest public collection of its sort in Switzerland. The Museum’s first icons precede its creation as they belonged initially to the Musée Fol, which was founded in the late 19th century and whose collections were subsequently integrated with those of the MAH. The icon collection slowly grew until 1980, when the Museum received three pieces from the Fondation Jean-Louis Prevost. A few years later, it attained its present size with the arrival of two valuable donations, that of Tatiana Slonim consisting of Russian icons, and that of Brigitte Mavromichalis containing Greek icons. Today, these Post-Byzantine icons are almost all shown permanently thanks to the opening in June 2006 of a room dedicated to these pieces.
- Virgin of Tenderness of the Glykophilousa type
Crete – Venice, 1557
Egg tempera on wooden panel
Height 42.1 cm, width 33.7 cm
MAH, inv. 1984-82
Firearms, Wheel-lock Pistols
The firearms collection contains 280 harquebuses, muskets and rifles, as well as 250 pistols of which 165 are of the wheel-lock variety. Included among the latter are an iron specimen dated 1552 and two others dated 1568 and 1569 respectively, the remainder being made between 1570 and 1580. The exceptional pair shown here, adorned with elaborate incrustations in bone, is considered to be one of the most valuable in the world, along with a brace in Graz (Austria).
- • Pair of wheel-lock pistols
Southern Germany, around 1575
Steel, wood and bone
Length 57 cm
MAH, inv. Arm. A 7 and Arm. A 8
Defensive Arms and Armour
The pieces in this collection date mostly from the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, a period that corresponds to the wars with Savoy. Among the oldest items are to be noted two very rare 15th-century brigandines and some parade pieces, like a round shield attributed to Eliseus Libaerts of Antwerp, dated between 1557 and 1560.
- Parade rondache attributed to Eliseus Libaerts
Antwerp, around 1557-1560
Diam. 54 cm
MAH, inv. Arm..
Deposited by two Geneva foundations, these stamped Parisian pieces of furniture show the delicacy of their marquetry and the expertise of the renowned artisans who made them.
- • Bernard II Van Risemburgh (around 1696 – around 1766)
Louis XV writing table with drawers and leaf
Marquetry of exotic wood and gilded bronze
Height 69 cm, width 73 cm, depth 43 cm
MAH, inv. AD 7089
The renovation of the silverware room in 2007 put a new light on this selection of some 200 pieces of national and international home silverware dating from the 17th to the 20th century. These specimens are representative of Swiss production as well as that of France, England, Russia, the United States, Peru and the Orient. Of particular note are the objects in the Empire set previously belonging to the Eynard family, and the American pieces by Tiffany & Co that were donated following the 1872 arbitration in Geneva concerning the Confederate Navy ship “Alabama”.
- Punch bowl from the Alabama
Created by Edward C. Moore for Tiffany & Co
New York, 1873
Partially gilded silver
Height 42 cm, diam. 65.5 cm, weight 11.5 kg
MAH, inv. 17232
The styles of the main Swiss cantons are well represented here, in addition to Renaissance gold- and silverwork on cast tin with some spectacular pieces that are ornately decorated with ancient themes.
- François Briot (1545 – around 1616)
Basin, known as de Mars
Montbéliard, between 1580 and 1616
Diam. 48,8 cm
MAH, inv. G 459
Early 20th century works stand out in this collection of metal pieces and in particular the vases by Jean Dunand, who was born in the canton of Geneva in 1877 and who used rare decorative techniques like eggshell lacquers.
- Jean Dunand (Geneva, 1877 – Paris, 1942)
Paris, around 1925
Metal, covered in lacquer with encrusted eggshell pieces
Height 26.8 cm, diam. 12.3 cm
MAH, inv. AD 3939
At the end of the 19th century was born the idea of Swiss Art, which explains the presence in Geneva of panelling, stoves and furniture from the castle of Zizers (late 17th century) in Canton Graubunden. The need to recreate several of these rooms influenced the very architecture of the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire. Panelling made in Geneva was also adapted to the museum, originally coming from the State Council room in the city hall and from the salon of the Château de Cartigny in the Geneva countryside.
- David Pfau II (1644-1702)
Winterthur, dated 1688 and 1689
Painted, high-fired polychromatic faience
Height 153, width 125, length 167 cm (main body); height 155 cm, width 102 cm (octagonal tower)
MAH, inv. 12032
This important collection containing some 400 pieces already existed prior to the birth of the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, in that it was initiated in 1889. It includes many fragments in addition to intact garments, tunics and coats, as well as furnishing materials. The pieces illustrate the skill of the Christian Egyptian textile artisans who made them. Certain key items, like a large wall covering that must have decorated a church apse, are on permanent exhibit in the Museum, while thematic hangings are regularly presented for the others. The group is completed by religious and secular objects including bronzes, sculptures, liturgical items and Coptic jewellery.
- Head of a woman adorned with a tiara and a necklace
Egypt, 8th century (?)
Linen cloth with woollen needlepoint insertions
Height 16 cm, width 17 cm
MAH, inv. 12755
The textiles of the Middle East have fascinated Europeans since Antiquity. Geneva’s international dimension resulted in an influx of these fabrics into the city, where calico production was then developed in imitation. In addition, local citizens travel extensively and bring back a good number of textiles in their luggage. The best of these can end up later in the Museum’s collection, which also is built up by acquisitions. The collection also includes Ottoman embroidery and Oriental silk items that are regularly presented in temporary exhibitions.
- Embroidered cushion cover (top)
Rhodes (?), around 1800
Cotton cloth, embroidered with cotton
Height 115 cm, width 85 cm
MAH, inv. Piot 466
The Museum holds a collection of some sixty tapestries of highly diverse origins, ranging from the Rhineland of the late Middle Ages to contemporary pieces. It includes many items from Flanders (Brussels and Oudenaarde) and France of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. They illustrate the development of the art of tapestry and the multiple influences that shaped its themes and decorations. Some of these works are permanently displayed.
- Medieval Tapestry
Allegory linked to the theme of fidelity
Rhineland, late 15th century
Linen warp, woollen weft
Height 51 cm, width 85 cm
MAH, inv. T 19 sn
With several thousand specimens, the Museum’s lacework collection comprises pieces dating from the 16th to the 20th century. It is the result of donations that have augmented the original collection over the years. An essential part of the collection is composed of Italian items including altar rugs, chalice veils, various costume accessories, and a group of braided fabrics. Among the illustrated techniques can be found the point coupé (or cutwork), pulled work, Venetian gros point, and Milan point. To this list can be added a group of Brussels bobbin and needle point lacework specimens, and some antique pieces from Valenciennes and Mechelen. The collection is further completed by French lacework made in Puy, Mirecourt and Chantilly.
- Cushion cover
Venice, 16th century
Linen, needlepoint lace
Height 58 cm, width 49 cm
MAH, inv. MF 4401
Velvet and Other Renaissance Fabrics
The Applied Arts Department holds some fifty silk velvet items of clothing and liturgical accessories, as well as some lampas ornaments carrying religious iconography. A number of embroidery and lace items from the Italian and Spanish Renaissance complete the group. These fabrics come primarily from the Piot and Ormond donations that were incorporated into the Museum’s collections at its foundation.
Italy, mid-15th century
Velvet, shaped, cut and decorated with a “wrought iron” motif
Height 106 cm, width (sleeves) 144 cm
MAH, inv. AD 8079
The Museum holds a large number of printed cotton specimens, both Oriental and Western, including mezzari from Genoa, cotton fabrics from India and of course calicos from Switzerland. The latter serve as a reminder of the 18th-century fad for printed textiles in fashion and furnishings, usually in colours that were both bright and tender at the same time. In Geneva, production of calicos was initiated in the last quarter of the 17th century and lasted for a century and a half. It represented an important economic sector at the time.
- Printed handkerchief
Geneva, early 19th century
Height 42.5 cm, width 42 cm
MAH, inv. 786 a
The Museum’s collection of costumes illustrates various modes of attire from the time of Coptic and Islamic Egypt to the present day. The collection of 19th-century European clothing and accessories has grown spectacularly in recent years, while contemporary creations are beginning to be well represented as well with some important deposits and donations. There are also to be found garments from the wardrobes of significant personalities, such as Jean-Gabriel Eynard and General Dufour, or the stage costumes of Geneva singer Clotilde Bressler-Gianoli (1872-1926). Because of their fragility, these costumes are only displayed during temporary exhibitions.
- Woman’s dress
Geneva (?), France (?), around 1830
Board- and roller-printed ecru cotton
Height 130 cm
MAH, inv. AD 4935
The Museum has a collection of nearly 200 fans, primarily obtained from donations or bequests before the Second World War. The fragility of these objects does not allow for permanent exhibiting. A few dozen pieces came into the Museum’s possession during the 1990s, in particular with the Baroness Edmond de Rothschild’s donation of 1999. The Museum also conserves a number of 18th- and 19th-century European fans, including some from the time of the French Revolution. There is also a group of Chinese and Japanese fans made for the export market.
- Brisé fan
Les Soldats (The Soldiers)
Germany, around 1890
Cardboard, riveting with metal carrying ring
Height 25.5 cm
MAH, inv. 61
The Museum conserves more than 800 instruments, originating from the Fritz Ernst collection (the former Musée des Instruments anciens de Musique, closed in 1993), the Camille Galopin collection, known for its stringed instruments, and the brass instrument collection of Angelo Galletti that was recently acquired by the City of Geneva. A new presentation concept is being prepared but certain features have already been decided upon, such as display cases that are specially designed to allow the sound of the instruments to be heard.
- Octave virginal
Flanders (?), around 1620
Ebony veneer, engraved ivory inlays, tempera painting on the inside of the lid, stained wood, engraved and gilded metal hinges
Height 13.5 cm, width 75 cm, depth 26 cm
MAH, inv. IM 294
MAH Reception Office: T +41 (0)22 418 26 00
Curator, Ancient Textiles, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art, Western Middle Ages
Curator, Furniture, Silverware, Tinware, Copperware, Historical Rooms, Old Musical Instruments
Curator, Antique Arms and Armour
Assistant Curator, Textile Restoration, Costumes, Modern Textiles