The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen was created shortly after the Revolution through the Chaptal Decree of 1801, but the first steps towards forming a public collection began in 1790. The museum was initially housed in the Jesuit church and began receiving the public in 1799, before being transferred to the new City Hall, where it was inaugurated in 1809 with a catalogue of 244 paintings. The collections grew dramatically during the 19th century. Democritus by Velázquez was added as part of the collection of the artist Gabriel Lemonnier, one of the museum’s founders; Delacroix asked for his masterpiece The Justice of Trajan to be deposited at Rouen in 1844, and the works of artists from the region, such as Poussin and Géricault, were sought out. Purchases and donations (including Clouet, Van Dyck, Puget, Ingres, Moreau and Traversi) soon outnumbered the works by Gerard David, Veronese and Rubens confiscated under Napoleon and sent to the museum in 1803.
The collection increased over the years of the very highest merit in a museum now cited as the most comprehensive in France after that of Paris.