It was spiritual and combative under the Order of Malta, as the Grand Priory of the most important of the regions, the Tongue of Provence, right up to the French Revolution.
It was artistic and visionary under Jacques Réattu, who bought it in 1796 as a place to live and work.
The identity of the site has grown and changed according the ambitions and dreams of its successive owners: the soldier-monks and an artist.
And yet, in a strange historic parallel, this palace beside the Rhone was for knights and artist alike, both a refuge, a fortress-like building in which they could retreat, and an instrument of the for ideal. By setting up his large studio parallel with the waterline, Jacques Réattu emphatically dedicated it to art. But there is yet another aspect to the story. In more than two centuries for the the Grand Masters and some thirty years for Réattu, who died in 1833, one moment vibrates as special. This was when the painter, carried away by the passion the place inspired in him, dreamed of setting up a residence for artists, so they, too, could share in the light and grandeur of the landscape. Here, in other words, was "l'Atelier du Midi", the very idea that would haunt Van Gogh 60 years on.
It is this vision that the museum inherited, along with Jacques Réattu's entire work.