Disappearance and Recovery of a Drawing Collection by Paul Borel


1. Paul Borel (1828-1913)
Study for a Work
(Saint Elizabeth’s Husband)

Lead Pencil - 31 x 24.2 cm
Upcoming donation to the
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
(if the work is still in the holdings)
Photo : D. R.

13/12/12 - Acquisitions (to come) - Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts - About two years ago, a young man offered the art dealer Michel Descours, in Lyon, an important ensemble of drawings by a 19th century Lyon painter, Paul Borel, which he had found at a yard sale. It did not take long for the dealer to realize just what he was looking at : the sheets were part of the studio holdings belonging to the Hôpital Saint-Luc, an institution founded partly thanks to the painter’s donations. These drawings were relatively well-known since they had been in a small exhibition held in July 1980 inside the hospital and for which there is still a catalogue written by Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier and Etienne Grafe [1].

How could these works have ended up at a yard sale ? Michel Descours inquired at the Association hospitalière Saint-Luc, the owner of the drawings, which had no idea what had happened. Obviously, the ensemble, stored away in an attic, was not a high priority since they had not noticed the disappearance.
The seller’s good faith seemed to be real, and after listening to the art dealer’s arguments, he accepted to have the drawings deposited at the Musée des Beaux-Arts so as to clarify their legal status and ensure their conservation. Following the advice of Sylvie Ramond, director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the association finally decided to "indemnify" the finder of the works with a very reasonable sum of money and, on Michel Descours’ recommendation, to donate not only these but all of the drawings still residing at the hospital, and held in poor conservation conditions, to the museum. The letter informing the museum of this decision has just arrived. Initially, a complete inventory must be established and then the donation will have to be formally presented to the Commission régionale d’acquisition. But one thing is sure : the Musée des Beaux-Arts will soon add several hundred drawings by Paul Borel to its holdings, and will present the most beautiful ones in an exhibition (this is a studio collection, so the sheets are of uneven quality).


2. Paul Borel (1828-1913)
Study of Left Hand Holding a Book
(for the Oullins Chapel)
Lead Pencil - 31 x 24.2 cm
Upcoming donation to the
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
(if the work is still in the holdings)
Photo : D. R.

3. Paul Borel (1828-1913)
Study for Hands at Rosary
(for the Oullins Chapel)
Lead Pencil - 31 x 24.2 cm
Upcoming donation to the
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
(if the work is still in the holdings)
Photo : D. R.


Alas, several of them may have disappeared, probably stolen, missing from both the ensemble deposited at the museum and the one still at the hospital. However, only a detailed inventory and a comparison with the list provided by Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier and Etienne Grafe can definitely determine which ones.
A profoundly religious artist (he hesitated between an artistic or an ecclesiastical career for many years), Paul Borel was a student of Paul Janmot. Financially wealthy, he produced various décors for chapels (Oullins, Augustines in Versailles) and churches (Basilica of Ars, the church of Saint Paul in Lyon...), at times gratuitously. The collection which will be donated to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon includes studies concerning the artist’s entire production.

Version française


Didier Rykner, mercredi 2 janvier 2013


Notes

[1] Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier and Etienne Grafe, Paul Borel à l’Hôpital Saint-Luc, 1980.



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