An Ary Scheffer Watercolor Donated to the Musée Bartholdi in Colmar

1. Ary Scheffer (1795-1858)
Saint Augustine and Saint Monica
Watercolor - 39 x 29.5 cm
Colmar, Musée Bartholdi
Photo : Musée Bartholdi

30/3/12 - Acquisition - Colmar, Musée Bartholdi - The Musée Bartholdi has just received a donation by the Société des amis in the form of a watercolor by Ary Scheffer (ill. 1), acquired from the de Bayser gallery, representing Saint Augustine and Saint Monica. This purchase was made because the author of the Statue of Liberty was a student of the painter, who also applied himself occasionally to the art of sculpture.

At the Salon of 1845, Ary Scheffer exhibited no less than seven paintings, including a Saint Augustine and Saint Monica with a comment in the brochure reproducing an extract from Saint Augustine’s Confessions : "We were conversing alone very pleasantly and forgetting those things which are past, and reaching forward toward those things which are future. We were in the present — and in the presence of Truth (which thou art) — discussing together what is the nature of the eternal life of the saints : which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man." [1].
The scene takes place at Ostia, in 387, shortly after the conversion of Saint Augustine and just before his mother’s death. Baudelaire sharply criticized the work, going as far as calling Scheffer (and also associating Delaroche), a "sentimental ape". The writer, who greatly admired Constantin Guys and William Haussoulier, was, as we can see, a better poet than art critic.

2. Ary Scheffer (1795-1858)
Saint Augustine and Saint Monica
Oil on Canvas - 146 x 114 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMNGP-S. Maréchalle

The painting was nonetheless so popular that Scheffer produced another version in 1854 and many replicas, either by the author or by his large workshop, have also been documented. It is also one of the artist’s most copied works [2].
Besides this watercolor version which is itself a replica of the original composition, and not a study, painted versions reside notably at the Louvre (ill. 2), at the National Gallery in London, at the Dordrecht Museum and at the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Paris.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 2 avril 2012


[1] Saint Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, chapter X.

[2] It even inspired stained-glass windows such as in Neuilly-sur-Marne.

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