Presentation of the Collection

The École conserves several prestigious collections linked to the history of the institution. The École inherited the royal academy collections, later amplified by École competitions, painting, sculpture and architectural drawings from the Académie de France in Rome and, since the mid-nineteenth century, numerous gifts and donations.

Open to researchers at Master’s degree level or higher, and to others by special permission, the Collections Service (Salle Lesoufaché) today preserves 120,000 works from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries (including 700 incunabula, or early printed books, most from the Masson donation) on the teaching of architecture, painting, sculpture, drawing and engraving. The architecture section is particularly rich, including works on architectural theory and history, town planning, construction techniques and building typology, also some 40,000 architectural drawings.

The remarkable drawing collection, with its 15,000 works representing principally the French, Italian and Northern schools, is second in size only to that of the Louvre and includes a number of truly exceptional pieces.

In addition, the Collections contain roughly 100,000 prints from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, some 70,000 photographs dating mainly from 1850 to 1914, approximately 1,000 manuscripts from the archives of the Académie de Peinture et de Sculpture and 300 medieval illuminated manuscripts.

The painting and sculpture collection of approximately 3,000 pieces comprises École student works, works by winners of the Prix de Rome and other competitions dating from the early eighteenth century to 1968, and a number of works from the former academies.

The morphology department collection, whose oldest works are from the Académie Royale, has grown steadily since the mid-eighteenth century.
Most of it is kept in the Galerie de Morphologie, opened in 1869 by Huguier. It contains several thousand objects: skeletons, mummies, casts from dissections, animal taxidermy specimens, wax anatomical models and écorchés, including Jean-Antoine Houdon’s famous Écorché in bronze.
It also has thousands of drawings, and above all photographs, some done at the École, such as
those by Paul Richer, others donated expressly for teaching purposes, such as the albums of
Duchenne de Boulogne.

In January 2005, thanks to the generous patronage of the collector Jean Bonna, the Collections Service opened a new drawing exhibition room which features regular exhibitions. The Cabinet de Dessins Jean Bonna is open every afternoon Monday to Friday 1-5 pm.

The Collections remain a vital component of teaching and study at the École. Far from being frozen in time or used merely to reproduce past accomplishments, they furnish ample material for thought and practice for several École studios and courses. For the students who study, examine, draw from and photograph them, they are a continual source of questioning and reinterpretation.