Petit Palais Museum

This ‘small palace’ in Avignon is small only when compared to the huge Palace of the Popes on the same square, but by any other standards the Petit Palais is itself a large building, and it is filled to the brim with outstanding medieval religious artworks.

Crowning of the Virgin

To my relief, most of these artworks do not depict saints being martyred in hideous ways (as in the off-putting collection at the State Gallery in Augsburg, for example). On the contrary, most of the scenes are quite peaceful, like this first one by Florentine painter Neri di Bicci (1419-1491) of the Crowning of the Virgin. What I find particularly interesting about this painting is that several of the angels are playing musical instruments such as were commonly used in Florence in the fifteenth century.

Christ flogging Saint Elzéar

There are only a few mild excursions into sadomasochism, such as this sculpture of a bored-looking Christ perfunctorily flogging Saint Elzéar of Sabran (1285-1323). The third figure, who seems to be clutching her breast and waiting impatiently for her turn, is presumably Elzéar’s virtuous wife Delphine of Glandèves (1284–1358), with whom he lived a life of chastity, prayer, charity and mortification of the flesh.

The Virgin to the rescue

I find it interesting to observe how the devil is depicted in these old paintings. Here, in the Vierge du secours by the Italian painter Giovanni Pagani (1465-1544), the devil is black (racism?) and has wings like a bat, a tail like a rat, profuse pubic hair and three-clawed feet. The Virgin’s facial expression is mild, but in her right hand she is holding a big stick and threatening to hit the devil, presumably to protect the frightened boy holding her left hand.

Statues in the museum

As with most historic buildings in France, the location, an aerial view and a photo of the Petit Palais can be seen on

The courtyard of the Petit Palais museum in Avignon

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2017.

See also: the Petit Palais Museum in Paris.

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