A Study by Delaunay Pre-Empted by the Château de Compiègne

21/12/13 - Acquisition - Compiègne, Château, Musée du Second Empire - In 1986, at the time of the retrospective of Jules Elie Delaunay organized by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, there were only four known preparatory drawings for the ceiling of new theater in the Compiègne palace which the artist had never completed due to the downfall of the Emperor [1]. However, in 1991 the château was able to acquire a painted study of the entire composition.

1. Jules-Élie Delaunay (1828-1891)
Study for the ceiling of the theater in the Palais de Compiègne
oil on paper - D. 63 cm
Compiègne, Musée du Second Empire
Photo : SVV Pierre Bergé & Associés

2. Jules-Élie Delaunay (1828-1891)
Study for the ceiling of the theater in the Palais de Compiègne
oil on canvas (?) - D. 64 cm
Compiègne, Musée du Second Empire
Photo : RMN-GP/F. Raux

At the Pierre Bergé & Associés auction which took place yesterday, 20 December at the Hôtel Drouot, the Château de Compiègne pre-empted a second study painted for this décor (ill. 1) of the same size, for 9,000€ (before charges) thanks to the Société des Amis du Château. The comparison with the one already in its holdings for about twenty years now (ill. 2) shows many variations.
The subject chosen was The History of Theater. The new study reflects a much denser composition, with almost twice as many figures. If we are to believe the program held at the Archives Nationales (retranscribed in the catalogue of the Nantes exhibition), it seems that the study already owned by Compiègne was produced earlier than the one just acquired. Indeed, on it we can see banners expliciting the iconography of the different groups : "children unrolling a streamer, with the names of Aeschylus, Sophocles, etc." accompanying Prometheus, the symbol of Antique Tragedy.

Generally speaking, the ceiling planned by Delaunay is similar in design to the one done by Lenepveu at the Paris Opera which was carried out but is now hidden under Chagall’s.

Version française

Didier Rykner, samedi 21 décembre 2013


[1] This theater, still in use today, should not be confused with the small Louis-Philippe theater inside the château, preserved in its original state and which should be restored soon.

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