Lascaux Cave: the Prehistoric Sistine Chapel

By December 16, 2016Culture, Regions

On December 15th, the new Lascaux 4 site opened in Montignac, in the Dordogne region. This project will be a Parietal Art International Center, focused in particular on the Lascaux cave and its unique paintings.

The original Lascaux

The original Lascaux cave (also called Lascaux 1) was discovered on September 12, 1940, by a group of 4 teenagers. While they were strolling and playing in the woods above Lascaux’s Manor, they decided to explore a hole, where they discovered a huge room decorated with bulls paintings over the walls of the cave. They returned the followings days and explored other parts of the cave. Realizing the importance of their discovery, they told a local retired teacher, Léon Laval, about the cave and he contacted the local authorities. The news of the discovery of the Lascaux cave spread, and on Septembre 21 Abbé Breuil, also called “the Pope of Prehistory” arrived in Lascaux and spend several weeks on the site to begin the study.

Lascaux Cave

Studies have shown that Lascaux’s paintings are between 18 000 et 17 000 years old, a unique testimony of the Prehistoric men lives and art techniques.

Lascaux is one of the most important sites of Prehistoric art in the entire world, and one of the best preserved. Each room of the cave is decorated with paintings of animals, hunting and life scenes.

After WWII the cave was opened to the public and between 1948 and 1963 it hosted a million visitors. A large amount of people entering the cave every day caused the first painting degradations, and in 1963 André Malraux (Minister of Cultural Affairs) decided to close the cave to the public. Nowadays, the cave can be visited by researchers and curators only for 200 hours per year, in order to limit the exposure to the paintings.

In 1979 Lascaux was labeled UNESCO World Heritage Site.

lascaux cave

Lascaux 2 opens in 1983

The public demand was so strong that in the 1970s M. de la Rochefoucauld, former owner of the site decided to start a huge project: building a facsimile of the original Lascaux cave. He worked with sculptors and painters using natural elements to give the public an exact reproduction of the cave.
Because of financial problems, the works stopped and the site was bought by the local General Council and resumed the works.
The first tourists entered the new site on July 18th, 1983. Lascaux 2 is located on the same hill as the original cave and reproduces 90% of the paintings, with also a museography exhibition that explains the history of the cave and the artists’ techniques.

lascaux paintings

Lascaux 3: the International Exhibition

In 2003 the local General Council started a new project called Lascaux 3, aiming to recreate the paintings omitted in the Lascaux 2 project. This new exhibition is made of an interdisciplinary project that presents Lascaux Cave, a monumental exhibition with 5 full-scale paintings reproductions, an interactive exhibition with a 3D HD movie and a new experience where the visitors become the actors!
Since 2012 this project travels around the world. You can find more information about the International Exhibition here.

2016: Opening of Lascaux 4 Parietal Art International Centre

This new project opened on December 15, 2016. The site consists in an entire reproduction of the Lascaux Cave, where new technologies will help the visitors to experience the cave in a whole new way!
The art center will be organized around different themes: the entrance prepares the visitors for the cave exploration, where the authentic cave atmosphere has been reproduced, a 3D and multi-screen movie, a parietal art theater, and also a contemporary section, dedicated to contemporary artists from all around the world.

To celebrate the new opening, the Tour de France will also pass through Montignac during the stage on July 11, 2017.

You can visit Lascaux during our Dordoge and Lascaux Cave Classic Tour.

Author Valentina Perego

More posts by Valentina Perego

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