A Canvas by Thérèse Moreau de Tours Acquired by the Musée de Bretagne

Thérèse Moreau de Tours,
born Thérèse de Champ Renaud (1861-1921)
The Mayor of Rennes, 1887
Oil on Canvas - 200 x 168 cm
Rennes, Musée de Bretagne
Photo : Musée de Bretagne

12/9/12 - Acquisition - Rennes, Musée de Bretagne - "I cannot change stones into bread ; but if my blood can nourish you, it is yours." A legend was born ! Jean Leperdit, a master tailor, was mayor of Rennes from February 1794 to October 1795, little more than a year during which he nevertheless left a strong mark on this troubled period of French history and the 19th century made good use of this figure, turning him posthumously into a Republican hero. Emmanuel Dolivet produced a sculpture [1] to his glory in 1892, showing him tearing up a list of citizens Carrier had given him demanding their heads, while a painting acquired at Drouot on 30 January 2012 by Rennes Métropole represents him offering his chest to the starving and furious crowd in 1794, a sense of sacrifice sure to elicit tears from the most indifferent viewer ; as explained in the entry for the Salon of 1887 where the painting was presented : "The Republican mayor of Rennes, Leperdit, a tailor who saved this city from the Terreur and from the Vendée was attacked one day by a furious populace which, claiming starvation, wished to lapidate its magistrates...".

The work now hangs at the Musée de Bretagne. It was painted 100 years after the events took place, the Third Republic being anxious to fabricate "exempla virtutis" and remind its citizens of the excesses of the Revolution as well as those of its opponents ; this monumental canvas is a perfect illustration of the impressive courage demonstrated by the first Republicans against both the Terreur and the Vendée.
It presented traces of wear and previous restorations. As explained by Pascal Aumasson, a curator at the museum at the time of the purchase, now appointed to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brest since last 1st June, two signatures can be seen : one might indicate that it was produced by Georges Moreau de Tours but it is in fact by the woman who would become his wife, Thérèse de Champ Renaud, whose signature appears below the first. No doubt Moreau de Tours’ name was added because he was more famous. This student of Cabanel produced a certain number of historical paintings such as Blanche of Castille in 1879, and La Tour d’Auvergne Dying on the Field of Honor from 1880. He also painted three compositions for the Wedding Salon at the 2nd arrondissement City Hall in Paris : The Family, 1881 ; The Sacrifice to the Fatherland, 1882 ; The Wedding, 1882. Thérèse de Champ Renaud, who signed several canvases with her married name, is less well known. Born in Switzerland, she exhibited at the Salon between 1885 and 1893. Examples of her work appear occasionally on the art market such as landscapes, genre scenes, like this Young Peasant Woman auctioned off at Millon et Cornette de Saint Cyr’s on 27 March 2009, but also historical scenes, notably The Battle at Alma, A Zouave Recovering his Regiment’s Flag from the Enemy, which came up for auction the same day.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, lundi 17 septembre 2012


[1] Located in the Place du Champ Jacquet in Rennes, the statue was melted down by the Germans during the Occupation ; a replica was inaugurated in 1994.

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