The Musée des Beaux-Arts is installed in an old 18th Century Benedictine Abbey (built between 1746 and 1783), and visits begin with a presentation of the local archaeology.
Objects unearthed at a dig in 1977 help shed light on the spiritual and religious life of people here from the 1st to the 4th Century.
The Medieval collections consist of remains from the first cathedral, Notre-Dame-en-Cité, a fine example of the kind of architecture and ornamental decor typical of the Roman style.
The two gilded wooden angel sculptures that bring to mind the interior of a cathedral are visible proof of the beauty of the Gothic style.
During this period, art was inseparable from religion, and religion from death, as all the funerary sculptures from the 12th to the 16th Century show. A historical journey is offered which allows you to observe the changing technical and stylistic development of the iconography (the tombstone of bishop Frumauld, which dates back to the end of the 12th Century, is a fine example).
Statues from churches in the surrounding area (including the Madonna and Child from the Chartreuse du Mont Sainte-Marie in Gosnay) are also perfect examples of the changing ways in which religion has been depicted in art.
The 15th Century is characterised by the increasing production of altarpieces in Brussels and Antwerp, including Jean Belle-Gambe's L'Adoration de l'enfant [Adoration of the Child] (1529), and Le Christ aux bourreaux [Christ with the Executioners ](1530-1532)).
The Musée des Beaux-Arts also displays works by French, Flemish and Dutch painters from the 17th Century; 16th and 17th Century ceramics (Maiolicas from Urbino, Venice and Castelli), and articles discovered during a dig at a bourgeois home dating back to 1640.
Objects produced by the local porcelain industry based in Arras between 1770 and 1790 can also be viewed.
During the same period, from 1750 until the end of the 19th Century, Tournai produced some magnificent porcelain pieces, such as the dinner set adorned with Buffon's bird illustrations ordered by the Duke of Orléans in 1787.
The visit ends with 19th Century paintings and landscape painters in particular (Théodore Rousseau's Barbizon school of painting, Chintreuil's Honfleur school, Appian's Lyon school and the most famous artists in this area: Dutilleux and Corot, who founded the Arras school).
Musée des Beaux-Arts, 22, rue Paul Doumer. 62000 Arras, France.
Tel.: +33 (0)3 21 71 26 43.
Concealed within the Fine Arts Museum are rooms filled with 17th century paintings from the French and Old Dutch schools.© ARCO Boensch B - age fotostock