An item of furniture, a decorative object, a wall covering, a lamp: all of them speak volumes about our way of life, our tastes, our values and our occupations. Taking as its starting point some key objects from the Swiss National Museum, the exhibition reveals just how much an interior can tell us about the people who lived in or created it.
By way of introduction, a showroom of Swiss design presents visitors with an eclectic juxtaposition of furniture and art objects. The selection showcases not only the variety of styles and materials developed over time, but also the vitality of Swiss creativity. The exhibition opens with four sets of prestige furnishings of national or international renown and a selection of art objects, photographs and archive documents – some of them unusual – before going on to examine numerous topics of cultural history through a confrontation between contrasting realities.
The taste for luxury and the social practices of the elites in the Age of Enlightenment, the increasingly widespread use and serial production of middle-class furniture in the 19th century, unease about industrialisation, which was felt to be detrimental to good taste, and the 20th-century battle to improve hygiene in the housing of the underprivileged, are just some of the aspects of the history of interiors explored in Décors. Masterpieces from the Collections.
Décors. Masterpieces from the Collections also attests to the Swiss National Museum’s policy over the last decade of acquiring objects from French-speaking Switzerland to enrich its collections.
Come and spend some time with us, we propose a large selection of activities for different target groups. A motivated and experienced team is awaiting you.
Guided tours can also be arranged outside of the official opening hours upon request.
2 weeks in advance
60 minutes; special arrangements available upon request
max. 25 people per tour
German, French, Italian and English. Others upon request.
CHF 120 for the guided tour + CHF 10/person admission
Children up to 16 years free.
Décors. Masterpieces from the Collections
Tell me where you live and I will tell you who you are! Décors. Masterpieces from the Collections, the new permanent exhibition at the Swiss National Museum – Château de Prangins, invites visitors to explore interiors that illustrate lifestyles, tastes and occupations in French-speaking Switzerland, from the Age of Enlightenment to the 20th century. This fascinating, seven-part experience opens its doors on 27 August 2023. The vernissage will take place on Saturday 26 August, as of 18:30.
“When you look at an interior, you understand the lives of the people who inhabited it”, explains Helen Bieri Thomson, director of the museum and exhibition curator. “Interiors are part of the Swiss National Museum’s DNA: it has been collecting them since it was set up in 1898, and they reflect various identities and realities of our country.” The story of that mission is retold in the film Documenting the Nation, which is screened at the end of the exhibition.
“This year, we celebrate the 25th birthday of the Swiss National Museum’s base in French-speaking Switzerland”, Helen Bieri Thomson reminds us. “So we wanted to turn the spotlight on decors from the region and showcase objects that are exceptional or have surprising stories to tell.”
The exhibition begins by immersing visitors in an eclectic melting pot of Swiss design, with everything from a futurist lamp by Mario Botta to an escabelle chair symbolising Swiss handcrafted furniture.
It continues with an ensemble almost without parallel anywhere in Europe: a private theatre set dating from 1777 originally installed at Château d’Hauteville. An immersive multimedia experience enables visitors to attend a performance of an 18th century play, Le médecin suisse allemand, by actors from the Théâtre de Carouge.
The next space, “Luxury on a farm”, presents a wallpaper grand enough for the Tuileries Palace depicting Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This décor, which, remarkably, adorned the walls of a peasant house in the Bernese Jura from the 1790s onwards, is the perfect setting in which to hear Ovid’s tales.
The next room signals a change of mood: “Investigating interiors” focuses on photographs taken by the criminologist Rodolphe Archibald Reiss and his successors between 1900 and 1930. These crime scenes are rare testimonies to the living conditions of the underprivileged classes in the canton of Vaud during the early 20th century.
Moving on to the “Middle-class living room”, visitors can discover furniture made in Yverdon in the 19th century by an innovative joiner whose techniques prefigure serial production. Here, they can assemble and take apart a chair, and touch items made from carved, inlaid or turned wood.
The exhibition culminates in a monumental work unique in Switzerland: a room constructed from exotic wood complete with boiseries, wall lights and paintwork heralding the arrival of Art Deco. Intended as an office, it was designed by the architect Alphonse Laverrière and built in 1922 for the First National Exhibition of Applied Art.
On show from 27 August at Château de Prangins. Vernissage open to the public on Saturday 26 August at 18:30, admission free.
- General Management Swiss National Museum: Denise Tonella
- Management Swiss National Museum – Château de Prangins: Helen Bieri Thomson
- Project management and curatorship: Helen Bieri Thomson
- Co-curators: Barbara Bühlmann, Matthieu Péry, Ludivine Proserpi
- Scientific advisors: Leila Bouanani, Lionel Gauthier, Marc-Henri Jordan, Dave Lüthi, Ursula Zeller
- Exhibition design: atelier oï: Patrick Reymond, Ilinka Najdenovska-Bogoeva
- Exhibition graphic design: atelier oï: Anna Badina
- Interactive Media Design: Mathieu Rivier, Joëlle Aeschlimann, Pauline Saglio, Sébastien Matos, Gianni Camporota
- Exhibition furniture: Stand Concept: Philippe Zürcher, L'Atelier: Joël Barret, Seigneur Décoration: Gilles Petermann, Stahl und Schweiss: Christian Alder, Geiser Rahmen AG, Metall Werk AGJ. Bodenmann SA, Ballenegger SA, Rachet SA L’Atelier
- Decorator: De Cagna, Nigro & Fils Peinture, Stand Concept
- Printing: Meylan publicité et signalétique
- Traductions: Claudia Grosdidier, Alessia Schiavon, Geoffrey Spearing
- Technical management: Philippe Humm (dir.), André Schärer
- Communication and marketing: Tatiana Oberson (dir.), Sylvie Nickbarte
- Graphic design (communication): L’Atelier de mon Père
- Cultural education and events: Marie-Dominique de Preter (dir.), Ana Vulić, Céline Allard, Ines Berthold, Sylvie Gobbo, Susanna Hurschler, Debra Kinson, Hester Macdonald, Sylvie Nickbarte, Nathalie Pellissier, Matthieu Péry, Ludivine Proserpi, Heidi Rasmussen, Stéphane Repas Mendes, Geneviève Suillot, Anne-Capucine Vernain, Laura Weber, Madeleine Wüthrich, Valérie Zanani, Farès Zemzemi
- Administration and finances: Odile Rigolet (dir.), Jacqueline Naepflin Karlen
- Reception: Véronique Laurent Kandem, Elisa Ottiger, Anita Rachetta Bays
- IT/Web: René Vogel (dir.), Ulrich Heiniger, Danilo Rüttimann
- Media stations: René Vogel (dir.), Alex Baur, Thomas, Bucher, Ella Fournel (stagiaire), Ulrich Heiniger, Pasquale Pollastro
- Photography: Jörg Brandt, Zvonimir Pisonić, Felix Jungo
- Objectmanagement: Laurine Poncet, David von Arx
- Picture library: Fabian Müller, Andrea Kunz
- Loan services: Laura Mosimann, Samira Tanner, Claudio Stefanutto
- Conservation management: Gaby Petrak, Véronique Mathieu
- Conservation and object mounting: Véronique Mathieu, Gaby Petrak, Natalie Ellwanger, Franziska Snape, Ulrike Rothenhäusler, Sarah Longree, Tino Zagermann, Iona Leroy, Nikkibarla Calonder, Milan Tomic, Marie Nusser (stagiaire), Lukas Schaad (stagiaire), Atelier Thomas Imfeld Véronique Mathieu et Ulrike Rothenhäusler (dir.), Anna Jurt, Iona Leroy, Sarah Longrée, Charlotte Maier, Jürg Mathys, Gaby Petrak, Tino Zagermann
- Logistics and object mounting: David Blazquez (dir.), Christian Affentranger, Simon D’Hollosy, Markus Scherer, Reto Hegetschweiler
For the help provided to our research, for the financial support given and for the fruitful partnerships, we are very grateful to the following institutions and individuals:
- Partners: Théâtre de Carouge: Jean Liermier (dir.), COFOP (Centre d'orientation et de formation professionnelle): Pascal Pittet
- Sponsorship: Hirzel Stiftung, Loterie Romande, Fondation Ernst Göhner, Association des Amis du Château de Prangins, Fondation Goblet
- Institutions: Archives de la construction moderne: Salvatore Aprea, Joëlle Neuenschwander Feihl, Barbara Galimberti, Archives de la Ville d'Yverdon-les-Bains: Catherine Guanzini, Archives cantonales vaudoises: Delphine Friedmann et Raphaël Berthoud, Bibliothèque communale et scolaire de Gland: Aurélie Masson, Château de Versailles: Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset, Hida Sangyo Co., Pharmacie du Marché, Aubonne: Linda Cretegny et Solange Barbey, RTS: Delphine Zimmermann, UNIRIS (UNIL): Gérard Bagnoud et Sacha Auderset, Zentralbibliothek: Dr. Jochen Hesse et Barbara Dieterich, Pro Infirmis Fribourg
- Individuals: Léonard Burnand, Philip Grand d'Hauteville, Béatrice Lovis, Olga Rapin-Held, Olivier Rapin, David Stieber, Stuart Symons, Anne Tainton