Delacroix’s La Liberté, Ingres’ Monsieur Bertin, Rahael’s Balthazar Castiglione or the Louvre Beheaded by Lens

1. Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)
La Liberte’ Guiding the People, 1830
Oil on Canvas - 260 x 325 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
In 2013 in Lens
Photo : RMNGP/H. Lewandowski

The embargo on this information will be lifted tomorrow morning [1]. However, since The Art Tribune has not received any information from the Louvre on the subject, this embargo does not concern us and we have chosen to discuss it now [2].

The list of almost two hundred works placed on deposit at the Louvre-Lens for its opening will indeed be disclosed tomorrow morning. We can already provide some of the names here, but the issue is not the detailed contents of said list. The fact is that some of these loans are going to deprive the Louvre, as we had feared, of some of its greatest masterpieces, those which attract the highest number of visitors. The budget for this annex, falling under the charge of local communities in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, will be of 15 million euros per year. This is an amount which French provincial museums, holding real collections, can only begin to dream of having [3]. This budget is equal to that of the Musée de l’Armée in Paris ! That of the Etablissement Public of Versailles is about 100 million euros, that is only about six times more ! This manna will be all the harder to find for the other museums in the region when we know that it is one of the richest in this domain.

2. Raphaël (1483-1520)
Balthazar Castiglione
Oil on Canvas - 82 x 67 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
In 2013 in Lens
Photo : RMNGP/J. G. Berizzi

3. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
Monsieur Bertin, 1832
Oil on Canvas - 116 x 95 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
In 2013 in Lens
Photo : RMNGP/C. Jean

Consequently, for over more than a year, visitors to the Louvre will be deprived of no less than La Liberte’ Guiding the People by Delacroix (ill. 1), a painting already sent in 2004 (but at the time for only three months) with absolutely no justification to Strasbourg (see news item of 4/9/04 in French), when the head of the Département des peintures, Vincent Pomarède, had written that this work was "fragile"(see article in French) ; Raphael’s Balthzar Castiglione (ill. 2) which, before the exhibition in Atlanta, had never left the museum and now spends its time since then transported back and forth, and, finally, - but we had learned this already in 2008 (see article) - one of Ingres’ major paintings, Monsieur Bertin (ill. 3). These three canvases are not only Louvre masterpieces, they actually are the Louvre. Of course, we can only expect the same to continue happening in the future : after La Liberté, perhaps Sardanapalus and after Monsieur Bertin, why not the Odalisque ?

This first batch will also contain, Georges de La Tour’s Madeleine but we now know that the Parisian museum is obviously fated, except in case of a miracle, to never showing the ensemble of this artist’s paintings (see article), the most exceptional in the world ; as well as, notably - but these are just a few examples - the Saint Francis of Assissi of the 13th century Italian school, the oldest work in the Département des peintures ; the Saint Sebastian by Perugino ; the Portrait of Denis Diderot by Fragonard ; Orpheus and Eurydice by Nicolas Poussin ; Master Hare by Joshua Reynolds (in passing, we cannot help but point out that English painting with new rooms, financed by Michel David-Weil and which were to open in 2005, will perhaps be inaugurated in five or ten years from now...), etc [4].

Just the announcement of these few works which are to be exhibited in the "Galerie du Temps" is enough to prove the pointlessness of the hang which will be joined by some sculptures (Bathing Woman by Falconet), antiquities (Dame Touy, announced in 2008) and art objects (an Athénienne by Martin-Guillaume Biennais)... These are undoubtedly masterpieces, but there is no thought, discourse, no possibility of connecting these pieces in order to provide visitors with any kind of sense as to their artistic importance. They will have seen art works, much as museum goers did in Fukushima or in Cambrai with the Centre Pompidou Mobile. So what ?

Although the Louvre has finally abandoned the idea of depositing the recently restored Saint Anne for too long in Lens, it will nonetheless be sent there for three months [5] to participate in the exhibition devoted to the Renaissance (sic !). How can one imagine organizing a serious exhibition featuring such a generic theme as the "Renaissance" ?
Clearly, and this will be even more obvious once the Louvre Abu-Dhabi opens, the Louvre museum, a collection patiently put together by the kings of France, then by the Republic, in order to best represent for all the visitors and thus for all the French people, as much as possible a complete history of art, no longer exists. Already a "hub" for the many exhibitions with no real subject which it organizes around the globe (see recently the one in Fukushima which is to open soon), the Louvre now represents a stockroom where works can spend a few days on their way to another destination, and where anyone can help himself according to economic, diplomatic or political criteria with no consideration for the fragile condition or artistic interest of the collections.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 17 avril 2012


[1] In journalism, an embargo means that a press release or a direct news item from the source is sent out allowing the media to work on an article but without the authorization to publish it before a certain date. It was logical for us to respect this embargo as we did not know of this event through other sources. However, having now received the information from elsewhere, the embargo is no longer justified. Obviously, the Louvre appears to be unaware of the fact that we do not often need their press releases to know what is going on inside the museum...

[2] This article was first published in French on 16/4/12.

[3] To offer just a few examples : the new Musée Soulages in Rodez is counting on an operating budget of 1.2 million euros (source : La Dépeche), the LAM in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, rather well endowed, receives less than half, that is 6 million a year (source : Mairie de Villeneuve-d’Ascq) and Cambrai disposes of a sum total of 715,000 euros per year as we had said in our article on the Centre Pompidou Mobile.

[4] As of 2008, besides the loan of Monsieur Bertin, those by Georges de La Tour, Poussin and Perugino had also been announced.

[5] We had already announced this move in 2006 (see article in French).

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