A Genevan patron, public figure and expert collector born on 8 April 1817 in Geneva, Gustave Revilliod was the son of Philippe-Léonard Revilliod and Ariane De la Rive, and the descendant of an affluent French family who first settled in Geneva in the 16th century.
An extremely wealthy man, he devoted his time and fortune to travelling, to the arts and to extending his country’s influence. He studied law and philosophy and at 21 began his journeys to European countries and the Mediterranean basin. In the last years of his life, he even went on a world tour that took him to the United States and the Far East.
Actively involved in public life, Revilliod served on the Genevan Grand Council and on the Municipal Council of his commune. In 1869, he represented Switzerland at the opening of the Suez Canal.
A patron of the arts and sciences, Gustave Revilliod proved to be a skilled collector, interested in all forms of art. Over the course of forty years, he acquired an exhaustive range of objects in such varied fields as painting, silverwork, furniture, numismatics, sculpture, rare books, and not forgetting ceramics and glass. His acquisitions illustrate centuries of creativity from Antiquity to his own time; they include masterworks as well as more humble pieces, which are still of value for research purposes and for their historical and cultural context.
On his extensive domain of Varembé, this patron commissioned a museum that was built between 1877 and 1884 to house his collections, and which he named Ariana in honour of his mother. On his death on 21 December 1890, Revilliod, who never married, left the building and its collections to the City of Geneva “as a credit to our country and to benefit the artistic education of future generations“, plus the extensive parkland that then reached down to the shores of Lake Geneva, and a substantial part of his fortune.