A 2010 Tissot Donation to the Met Sold in 2013

3. James Tissot (1836-1902)
In the veranda. The Rivals, c. 1875
Oil on canvas - 38.1 x 58 cm
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 2010 and 2013
Auction Christie’s New York on 28 October 2013
Photo : Metropolitan Museum

3/10/13 - Deaccessioning - New York, Metropolitan Museum - On 16 June 2010, barely three years ago, we announced the donation by Mrs. Wrightsman of two small paintings by James Tissot to the Metropolitan Museum. Today, one of them (ill.1) is to be resold by the institution at Christie’s New York on 28 October.
We know that American museums, unlike their French counterparts fortunately, may sell works on condition that the money obtained be used towards the acquisition of others. Generally, however, this is a way of getting rid of objects held for a long time and considered, mistakenly or not, as no longer belonging in the collections.
Thus, it is not often we see a work sold only three years after being first acquired. True, the museum owned five Tissots, but none is really comparable to this one which represents an interior scene with several figures, a sort of social tableau. Obviously, the donor gave her permission but it would have been more logical no doubt to simply avoid this brief passage at the Met, unless this was intended rather to increase the value of the canvas by adding this prestigious entry to its provenance. Is the role of a museum, even an American one, to transform itself into an art dealer ?

2. François Vernay (1821-1896)
Still-life with fruit
Oil on canvas - 26.7 x 38.1 cm
At the Metropolitan Museum between 2008 and 2013
Auction Christie’s New York on 28 October 2013
Photo : Christie’s

Two other paintings from the Metropolitan Museum are also included in this auction : a landscape by Corot, Two Boatmen on a River, donated to the museum in 1917, and a still-life - whose donation we had not announced in 2008, again by Mrs. Wrightsman - painted by the little-known François Vernay (ill. 2). While the sale of the Corot seems less surprising (the Metropolitan owns a great number already), we fail to understand why it wishes to let go of this small work which is of very fine quality and by a rare artist, particularly since the Met does not own any other pieces by him. The excellent American journalist, Paul Jeromack, thanks to whom we learned of these sales [1], points out that Gary Tinterow wrote this about the work : "The timeless, painterly quality of this charming painting has stumped any number of art historians and curators visiting the Wrightsman collection, who rarely recognize the author.". We cannot help but adhere to Paul Jeromack’s conclusion : "For that reason alone this is exactly the sort of lovely picture they should keep.". This is all the more true as the sale price (it is estimated at between 6,500 and 7,000€) is a mere drop of water in the Metropolitan Museum’s acquisitions budget.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 3 octobre 2013


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