Another donation for the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille

1. Oscar Roty (1846-1911)
1900 Paris World Fair
Bronze plaque - 5 x 3.5 cm
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts
Photo : PBA de Lille

2/4/10 – Acquisitions – Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts – There is no better sign of gratitude, and by the same token, of encouragement for the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille than this emblematic donation of 40 medals from the period between 1880 and 1930, donated by Jacques and Elizabeth Foucart [1].
Indeed, this generous and spectacular gift accompanies the appearance of the Catalogue sommaire des sculptures, medaillons et moulages des XVIIIe et XIXe siecles du Palais des beaux arts de Lille [2] last September, while at the same adding significantly to the Lille section already holding some 250 medallions, medals and small plaques related mostly to Jules Clement Chaplain, Hippolyte Lefebvre, Auguste Preault and Jean Ringel d’Illzach [3].

There are 35 bronze medals, two silver, one copper, one cast-iron and one ceramic in this donation : while reinforcing the presence of such famous artists as Jules Clement Chaplain (1839-1909), Oscar Roty (1846-1911), Frederic de Vernon (1858-1912) [4], above all they offer new prestigious names such as Louis Alexandre Bottee (1852-1940), Alexandre Charpentier (1856-1909), Godefroid Devreese (1861-1941), Ovide Yencsse (1869-1947)…
In this respect, the ensemble on its own is characteristic of the craze for this art between 1890-1900 [5], reflecting its effervescent development at the outbreak of the 20th century until the end of the 1930’s. This very solemn art form, and yet soon to be largely reproduced, was stimulated by the commemorative fervor of the IIIrd Republic evoking many official events, either local or international, civil, military or even religious, thus honoring both prominent figures as well as everyday citizens. It exemplifies a diversified artistic panorama, relating many of the aspects of life at that time for visitors to discover.

2. Jules-Clément Chaplain (1839-1909)
Maternity. Protection of young children
Bronze medal - Diam. 6.6 cm
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts
Photo : PBA de Lille

Among the most beautiful pieces, we would point out particularly those by Jules-Clement Chaplain and Louis Oscar Roty (ill. 1) who both commemorated the 1900 Paris World Fair with great creativity ; the first of these two artists produced a beautiful Michelangelesque allegory of Maternity related to the protection of young children as provided by the law of 23 December 1874, a commission which the Ministry of Interior bestowed on Mme Cointrel (ill. 2) seen a bit further ; the second of the above artists executed a coin dedicated to Mme Marie Girard, a schoolteacher in the Isere region, minted in the name of Primary Education and National Education as requested by the Ministry of Public Instruction in 1906.
Louis Alexandre Charpentier (1856-1909) produced a “masculine” allegory of Painting on a bronze plaque with cutaway sides. Louis Alexandre Bottee (1852-1940) evokes the prosperous and pensive image of Industry promoted by the very active Comite francais des expositions a l’etranger (1899) on a curved bronze plaque, but also imprints on silver the proud profile of a victorious France, encircled with a halo of sun rays in 1899. Georges Henri Prudhomme (1873-1947) crafts a vigorious effigy of Alsace as “an offering” for the liberation of Colmar, on 18 November 1918 (ill. 3) while Leo Laporte-Blairsy (1865-1923) transcribes a painted scene by Guillonnet in tribute to the memory of those who fell for their country, in this case the soldier Lucien Ferme, during the 1914-1918 war.

3. Georges-Henri Prudhomme (1873-1947)
Alsace, 1918
Bronze Medal - 6.7 x 5 cm
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts
Photo : PBA de Lille

4. L. Loudray (dates unknown)
Medal - Diam. 6.6 cm
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts
Photo : PBA de Lille

Georges Dupre, active around 1893-1935, produces compositions of a religious spirit, dense and expressive : a silver medal is decorated with a Virgin of Consolation with Child and a curved plaquette presents the vision of Charity welcoming an old man, for the civil hospital in Saint-Etienne. On the contrary, L. Loudray offers a portrait of Orpheus, imbued with pathos (ill. 4), whereas Jean Vernon (1897-after 1936) commemorates the launching of the famous ocean liner, The Normandy in 1935, in asupple and decorative manner. Animal themes are also present thanks to R. Thenot (silver medal in 1936) which traces the arabesque-like figures of two giraffes kissing their offspring on a bronze plaque. Anonymous authors also stand out with noteworthy pieces such as the elegant and sculptural Virgin with Child, the motif of a plaque placed on a small base.
Sculptors and engravers of the period all experimented with the art of medals, a demanding discipline given the reduced scale of the medium which requires creativity, sensitivity and concision ; these qualities confer a precious character and power of suggestion, stunning in their effect, which the donation of Jacques and Elizabeth Foucart has made particularly pertinent today [6].

Complete list of donation works

Annie Scottez-De Wambrechies, vendredi 2 avril 2010


[1] This donation follows others by Jacques and Elisabeth Foucart to the Lille museum : that is, four medallions, three by Auguste Barre and one by Ringel d’Illzach, in 1988 (see Catalogue des sculptures…quoted in note 2, p. 132, 180) and twenty-five Norther European and French drawings including Ary Scheffer, Eugene Carriere, Luc-Olivier Merson, Dominique Papety, Ferdinand Gaillard, Jean-Joseph Weerts in 1997 (see Catalogue des dessins francais du XIXe siècle, Paris, RMN, 2004, under the supervision of Barbara Brejon de Lavergnee and Michele Moyne, p. 91, 162, 219, 220, 279, 310, 311, 350).

[2] Paris, RMN, 2009, under the supervision of Michele Moyne, conservation attachee at the Palais des beaux arts in Lille with contributions by Elisabeth De Jonckheere, Marie Francoise Bouttemy and Frederic Chappey. This catalogue was highlighted in an articleby Jacques Foucart in The Art Tribune, 4 January 2010.

[3] The section was studied by Elisabeth De Jonckheere in said catalogue. See respectively pp. 135-140, pp. 146-166, pp. 167-176, pp. 177-180.

[4] See in the same catalogue respectively pp. 135-140, 180, 181-182.

[5] A medals section was finally inaugurated at the Musee du Luxembourg (Paris) after the government acquired two frames for medals by Chaplain and de Roty presented at the 1889 Exposition universelle. Then in 1899 the Societe des amis de la medaille francaise was founded by Roger Marx.

[6] A series of simultaneous exhibitions directed by Catherine Chevillot from the musee d’Orsay in collaboration with curators from the museums in Lyon, Lille, the Petit Palais in Paris and the Cabinet des medailles at the Bibliotheque nationale will take place in 2012-2013 to better highlight each of the collections.

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