A chronicle of planned acquisitions : Poussin for Montpellier and Ingres for the Louvre

1. Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
Venus and Adonis
Reconstructed painting with two parts
Oil on canvas - 77 x 200 cm
Montpellier, Musée Fabre
Photo : All rights reserved

10/11/09 – Acquisitions – Montpellier, Musée Fabre and Paris, Musée du Louvre – We have already mentioned several times the Musée Fabre’s project to buy a fragment of a Nicolas Poussin painting for which it already owns the right side, Venus and Adonis. The two pieces had been brought together for the exhibition Poussin and Nature (see article), then they had been displayed at the Musée Fabre while the city of Montpellier attempted to raise the necessary funds. The work had been declared of national importance so as to allow contributions by patrons. The acquisition has now taken place as confirmed by the Musée Fabre although financing will not be finalized until the end of the year. The reconstitution of this painting by Poussin is a major event for French national heritage…

2. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1864)
Portrait of Count Molé, 1834
Oil on canvas - 147 x 114 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : All rights reserved

The addition of the Portrait of Count Molé by Ingres to the collections at the Louvre, to be announced officially next month, was a painful process. The painting was first listed as a national treasure (see news item, in French, of 21/5/06), then benefited from a fund-raising drive (see news item of 1/2/09). As no company came forth to offer its patronage for the entire purchase price, financing was particularly hard to find. If the work had left France it would have of course been a terrible loss for French heritage, still, we would like to mention two regrettable aspects to the final arrangement. First of all, it is a shame that the painting was not acquired by a museum in the provinces. This particular work will not add much to the already extensive Poussin collection at the Louvre, unlike that of Ferdinand d’Orléans, the last painting by the artist to join the Parisian museum and which, due to its subject, rightfully belongs there ; on the other hand, the Portrait of Count Molé would have represented a major acquisition for Montauban, for example, or for a museum which did not yet own any Ingres portraits, or even any works at all. The second unfortunate point is the very (too ?) high price, nineteen million euros, thus taking a huge chunk from the Louvre’s acquisition budget for other works. Several major art pieces will or may leave France, others are not even submitted to the Commission des trésors nationaux as their purchase price is impossible to finance. We had already discussed this subject in an editorial, in French. We wonder what the money received from Abou Dhabi is being used for if it cannot even help to stop the exodus of masterpieces from the country.

Didier Rykner, mardi 10 novembre 2009

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