Affiche de l'exposition 'Galeries des portraits'', Scénographie de la Galérie des portraits. Copyright: ©Musée national suisse

François Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778), Jacques Necker (1732-1804), Charles-Jules Guiguer (1780-1840), William Beckford (1760-1844), Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844), Katharine McCormick (1875-1967) and Bernie Cornfeld (1927-1995) are amongst the well-known figures who have lived or stayed at Château de Prangins (canton of Vaud), one of the three national museums of the country.

Other residents of the castle were the members of the Moravian Brethren, one of the oldest protestant organisations, founded in 1457, long before the statements of Martin Luther in 1517!

They lived in the castle between 1873 and 1920. They were a Christian community originally from Bohemia and Moravia (present-day Czech Republic). From 1739 onwards, they established themselves in German-speaking Switzerland to escape the catholic Habsburg rule. 1873 they moved to Château de Prangins, remaining there until 1920. Their history is one of the fascinating stories of the exposition.

The exhibition ‘Galérie des portraits’. Copyright: ©Musée national suisse

In the large hallway on the first floor, these former inhabitants reappear to surprise visitors and recount anecdotes. Historically, the gallery of a stately home links separate wings together and acts as a place of transition between different spaces.

Often sizeable, it became somewhere to stretch one’s legs or walk around when the weather was terrible. Since it was an area that everybody had to pass through, it was frequently used to hang family portraits for all to gaze at. These former functions are respected but addressed in a contemporary way.

Bringing together the above individuals from the past, this permanent exhibition (Portrait Gallery) also sets out to recreate the castle’s sense of place or soul, shaped by all those who lived, wrote, dreamed, wept, studied or collected there. In an interactive presentation, visitors will learn about the lives and stories of these personalities in their historical context.

The exhibition ‘Galérie des portraits’. Copyright: ©Musée national suisse