Arts and Prehistory

From 16 November 2022 to 22 May 2023

Discover masterpieces of prehistoric art from around the world. An exhibition that traces the power of human creativity since the dawn of time!

The exhibition

The famous Venuses, the unmissable Lascaux and Chauvet frescoes, and much more... The exhibition features over 90 original prehistoric pieces and hundreds of digital images of paintings and engravings.

Through contemplation of physical works and audio-visual and digital immersion in the world of cave and rock art, Arts and Prehistory offers a unique opportunity to travel through time immemorial. Far from being simple or isolated accidents of representation, the exhibition reveals an unsuspected diversity of art forms and expressions.

This fundamental chapter of art history has continued to inspire modern and contemporary artists. Works by Louise Bourgeois, Brassaï and Yves Klein will be presented in this prehistoric light.

Priceless jewels

The first area of the exhibition is devoted to portable art. Explore dozens of sculpted, engraved or painted objects that accompanied our ancestors in their nomadic life.

These include palaeolithic Venus figurines, decorated tools, sexual representations, carved animals, ivory, rock, bone, reindeer or deer antlers, and more. Original pieces from various European collections are presented here. Some are among the oldest ever found, dating from 35 - 40,000 years ago.

Key objects from the collections of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, such as the Vénus de Lespugue, the Vénus impudique from Laugerie-Basse, the spear-thrower with fighting ibexes of Enlène, the mammouth of La Madeleine… and more, alongside exceptional loan items such as the Venus of Laussel or the tablet known as the "radiant Aurochs", being unveiled to the public for the first time.

A world view of cave and rock art

A second area offers an immersion in cave and rock art from around the world!

In a hushed atmosphere, a digital space invites you to contemplate the abundance of works adorning cave walls and rock faces on every continent.

From the narrow caves of the Dordogne to the vertiginous cliffs of China, from the islands of Indonesia to the canyons of Utah, from the caverns of Spain to the rock shelters of Australia... Come and decipher the plurality of styles, the range of tools used and the diversity of animals and symbols represented.

Fascinating sites are revealed, such as Sulawesi in Borneo, where some of the oldest known figurative paintings (45,000 years old) were recently discovered, or Foz Côa in Portugal, whose rock engravings span more than 20km along the valley.

A real journey through space and time!

The Venus of Lespugue : a contemporary tribute

Vénus de Lespugue vue de face.

The centenary of one of the most famous female representations in prehistoric art;

The exhibition continues on the Balcony of Science with a tribute to the Venus of Lespugue, l’un des plus précieux joyaux du Musée de l’Homme.

Discovered 100 years ago, on 9 August 1922, it is here revised and reinterpreted by the 20th and 21st century artists it has inspired.

Featuring sculptures, installations and video compositions, this eclectic tribute includes works by Yves Klein, Louise Bourgeois, Brassaï and Jean Arp, among others, pondering the aura of the famous Venus as an icon of femininity and the artistic desire of which she has been subject since her discovery.

In this way, you’ll discover the extent to which Lespugue has become a symbol of (artistic) fertility!

More information on the Venus de Lespugue

Photo |

Vénus de Lespugue

© MNHN - J.-C. Domenech

Patrons and partners

With a support from Kinoshita
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