Behind an opulent columned facade, the Musée de Picardie, built 1855–67, looks like a pompous offering from the Second Empire. Initial impressions are hardly challenged by the grand staircase lined with marouflaged murals by local-born Puvis de Chavannes, or the Grand Salon hung with huge canvases like Gérôme's 1855 Siècle d'Auguste and Maignan's 1892 La Mort de Carpeaux. One step beyond, though, and you're in a rotunda painted top to bottom
in modern minimalist fashion by Sol LeWitt. The basement, notable for its masterly brick vaulting, is filled with subtly lighted archaeological finds and Egyptian artifacts. The ground floor houses 18th- and 19th-century paintings by artists such as Fragonard and Boucher. Major renovations are underway, so parts of the museum may be closed to the public until 2017.