Call for patrons for the Portrait of Count Molé by Ingres

Dominique Ingres (1780-1864)
Portrait of Count Molé, 1834
Oil on canvas - 147 x 114 cm
Private Collection
Photo : All Rights Reserved

2/2/09 – Call for patrons – Paris, Musée du Louvre – The Journal Officiel today published a call for patrons in the business world for the acquisition by the Louvre of the Portrait of Count Molé by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

This painting had been listed as a national treasure in May 2006 (see news item in French of 21/5/06), that is almost three years ago, during which period it was temporarily banned for export. The procedure thus took a very long time due to the difficulties encountered by the Ministry of Culture and the Louvre in agreeing on a purchase price with the current owner. The amount has now been established at 19 million euros. This is a phenomenal sum for an Ingres painting. The Portrait of Ferdinand, the last Ingres canvas acquired by this same museum (see news item in French of 20/1/06), was acquired for “only” 11 million. Although setting a price on the value of a painting is a difficult task, and given the fact that none of the works by the artist recently up for sale, except for religious paintings (and therefore less in demand – see news item in French of 14/1/05), has been this important, one wonders if this is really a fair market price. We cannot begin to imagine the price of the last great Ingres painting remaining in a French private collection, Baroness Betty de Rothschild, still in the family and which, in this case, is truly indispensable for the Louvre. The museum does not own a large female portrait corresponding to the second half of the painter’s career, as the most beautiful ones left France during the 20th century amidst general indifference.

It would be out of the question to allow the Portrait of Count Molé to leave France and we, of course, hope this call for patrons will be successful. But once acquired, the question of how pertinent another Ingres painting would be for the Louvre should be raised. Major 19th century collections in the provinces are sorely lacking works by the artist, and a permanent deposit is always a definite possibility.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 3 février 2009

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