A Virgin by Simon Challe for the Louvre, its Model now Found

8/12/12 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée du Louvre - The opening of the Louvre-Lens at least served to help us discover, in the "Galerie du Temps", a superbe acquisition made in 2011 by the Département des sculptures [1] which we had overlooked earlier : a Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in marble by Simon Challe (ill. 1).

1. Simon Challe (1719-1765)
Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, 1764
Marble - 75 x 31 x 24 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMNGP/S. Maréchalle

2. Simon Challe (1719-1765)
Virgin of the Immaculate Conception
No doubt the model displayed at the Salon of 1759
Terracotta - H. 70 cm
Unknown Current Location
Photo : Audap-Mirabaud

This sculptor who was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1743 was the brother of the painter Michel-Ange Challe. His stay in Rome left a strong influence in his work returning to Paris with a Baroque style greatly inspired by Bernini. The Virgin, dating from 1764, is a particularly good example of this lasting effect. It belonged to the monastery of the Dames de la Visitation Sainte-Marie in the Faubourg Saint Jacques where it was looted during the Revolution before being exhibited in Lenoir’s Musée des Monuments français.
The sign put up by the Louvre, taken from the museum’s Atlas database, indicates that the model of this work appeared at the Salon of 1759. Strangely, in one of those rare coincidences which only seem to happen in art history, on Tuesday 5 December, at the very moment when the Louvre-Lens was being inaugurated with the sculpture itself, the auctioneers Audap-Mirabaud were offering a terracotta, lot n° 151 in room 4 of the Hôtel Drouot, which was heavily painted over, "18th c. style" (ill. 2) but recognizable enough for several amateurs to identify what is no doubt the model in question : estimated at 600 to 800€ it in fact sold for 23,000€ (before charges).

3. Giambologna (or after
Giambologna) (1529-1608)
Cesarini Venus
Bronze - 41 x 10 cm
Unknown Current Location
Photo : Fraysse & Associés

All in all, this was definitely an auspicious day for discoveries following a series of mistaken attributions and valuations since at the Fraysse & Associés auction, room 1, a small bronze representing a Venus "after the famous model by Jean de Bologne [...] from the early 19th century", estimated at 1,000 to 2,000€ (ill. 3) was finally purchased for no less than 110,000€ (before charges), the bidders having decided that this was after all a 16th century work from Giambologna’s studio.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 10 décembre 2012


[1] In Paris from the Galerie Ratton-Ladrière.

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