Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)
Mary Stuart Protesting her Innocence
on Hearing her Death Sentence, 1832
Oil on Canvas - 195 x 240 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Galerie Michel Descours
13/12/12 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée du Louvre - A source of national pride in Italy, the great Romantic artist Francesco Hayez is relatively unknown elsewhere. There is good reason for this as practically all of his paintings held in public collections reside in his native country with a handful of exceptions : in France, the Musée d’Aix-les-Bains owns a Feminine Nude ; in Germany, the Staatliche Museum holds a canvas representing Bianca Cappello Leaving her Father’s House and the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, in the United States, a small format, Christ and the Adulteress. Though a Susanna Bathing hangs at the National Gallery, this is in fact a loan from a private collection. As for the Liechtenstein Museum, now closed (except to groups), this also is a private collection.
Hayez’ most famous work, The Kiss is on view at the Brera in Milan.
Now, the Louvre will thus be one of the few museums outside of Italy to display one of his canvases since it has recently acquired a large historical composition from the Michel Descours Gallery in Lyon : Mary Stuart Protesting her Innocence on Hearing her Death Sentence (ill.).
The painting was exhibited to the public at the Esposizione di Belle Arti in 1832 at the Brera Gallery. This was the second time the artist illustrated an episode from Mary Stuart’s life, after Mary Stuart Led to the Scaffold in 1828. The queen’s tragic destiny was a recurring source of inspiration in 19th century European painting, notably in France (see the article on the recent exhibition in La Rochelle, in French).
While Paul Delaroche never produced a painting directly related to Mary Stuart’s life, as pointed out by Jacques Foucart in the article mentioned above, he is the closest comparison which comes to mind, along with other contemporaries such as Eugène Devéria, when mentioning Francesco Hayez. We are very pleased to hear that this large canvas will now join Delaroche’s works at the Louvre, notably Edward’s Children painted only a year ealier.
We would like to conclude by saying that this beautiful acquisition proves, once again, the crucial importance of a strong French art market (and the existence of private collections) for the enrichment of our heritage. The works entering our country increase their chances of ending up in one of our public collections.