Facing the similar Grand Palais, the magnificent Petit Palais (small palace) houses an excellent collection of art work, encompassing an era from the antiquity to the twentieth century.
History and architecture
Reopened in 2005 after more than four years of renovations, Paris’s Petit Palais was – like its counterpart across the street, the Grand Palais – built for the Universal Exposition in the year 1900.
Originally meant to be just a temporary structure to host a large exposition of French art, this magnificent Beaux-Arts building – designed by Charles Girault – became a favorite with Paris residents, who refused to see it torn down… and it still stands today.
Ionic columns line the front of the rather classical portico of Petit Palais. Like many Beaux-Arts buildings, it combines Greek and Roman forms but also includes plenty of ornamentation, making it rather eclectic in style.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
While the outside of Petit Palais is certainly impressive, many visitors head here to enjoy what’s on the inside. The palace’s main function is as the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) of the City of Paris, and it is home to an incredibly impressive array of artwork spanning several centuries. Some call it a mini Louvre, but without the crowds.
Indeed, you will find works of art at Musée des Beaux-Arts that range from antiquity to the twentieth century. Most of the collection is the legacy of Auguste Dutuit, who left the museum additional money to buy yet more artwork. In all, this museum owns about 12,000 prints and hundreds more tapestries, sculptures, medieval objects, rare manuscripts, and icons.
Most impressive is the collection of wonderful eighteenth and nineteenth century French paintings including works by such magnificent artists as Delacroix, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Courbet.
Visiting the Museum
Most visitors choose to tour Petit Palais and the museum on their own, but guided tours are available daily for those who desire one. Some tours are planned especially with families in mind and include unique activities for children.
Access to the permanent collection is free, but an admission charge is levied for temporary exhibits. A café and gift shop are also located on the premises. The café looks out over a beautiful inner garden.