Drawings from the Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection


Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, from 21 March to 26 August 2012

1. Jan van Orley (1665-1735)
The Visitation
Pen and Brown Ink, Grey Wash - 26.5 x 32.8 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel Salingue -
Musée des beaux arts de Rennes_2011

The drawing exhibition currently on show at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes presents a fascinating aspect due not only to the high quality of the sheets but also in the way this ensemble was put together, a fact which is sure to set more than one art lover dreaming. This is because many of these works were, literally, invented by the collectors. They did this by picking out often anonymous sheets, at second-hand shops or auctions at the Hôtel Drouot. They then invented them by finding the name of the corresponding artist.
True, in this second stage, sometimes simultaneous with the first, they were helped by the best connoisseurs and art historians in Paris who participated in writing the beautiful catalogue. However, what matters is knowing how to separate the wheat from the chaff, identifying among the thousands of sheets available on the market, the one which, while still moderately priced, has a much higher artistic value than that corresponding to a name or lack of one.

Like many persons who like to browse around and chance upon a find, the Adriens regret the time when there were more drawings on offer, at lower prices, resulting in more frequent discoveries. This has not kept them however, from continuing their purchases and establishing attributions.
One of their latest acquisitions, purchased a year ago at the Chirée auction, can be seen here. The drawing, a pen and brown ink (ill. 1), was presented with an attribution to Antoine Rivalz. A particularly knowledgeable eye was needed to detect the hand of the Flemish artist, Jan van Orley, almost unknown but a descendant of the great Bernard van Orley, by comparing the composition to that of an etching which it prepares, signed by the artist. Only a true collector can understand the pleasure of discovering the identity of an acquired work, even if the artist is not particularly famous. Nor is the prospect of monetary gain the major reason for this satisfaction since, for instance in this case, the acknowledged name does not mean an increase in the value of the work : it was purchased at a fair market price.

2. Pier Francesco Mola (1612-1666)
Virgin with Child and Young Woman
Red Chalk, Red Chalk Wash, Pen and Brown Ink - 19.5 x 24.3 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel Salingue -
Musée des beaux arts de Rennes_2011

However, the Adrien collection is not an ensemble of lesser artists, far from it. Prestigious names (at least in the eyes of art lovers) abound from Baccio Bandinelli to Pier Francesco Mola (ill. 2), from Denys Calvaert to Abraham Bloemaert or from Charles Le Brun to Antoine Coypel. These are often spectacular sheets, which always touch us, which all have a soul. This is thus the contrary of a collection favoring attribution over quality. As we know, it is always better to choose a major work by a lesser artist than a sketch by an old master. And we hope our readers will understand when we say we prefer Louis Brandin’s Horsemen Battling (ill. 3), an artist whose oeuvre is just starting to be acknowledged, rather than Study after Antiquity which, though certified as being by Nicolas Poussin, moves us and interests us less due to its more anecdotal character. As concerns the Rubens in the collection, we know that such an acquisition, like that of the Diepenbeck, must constitute a source of pride for the collectors, but we doubt they derived as much pleasure from these as when they purchased for example at Pierre Gaubert’s the Academic Male Nude by Antoine Coypel (ill. 4) which they probably acquired at the time for a very reasonable sum, with its correct name (this dealer was a true connoisseur).


3. Louis Brandin (c.1575/1580-c.1635/1636)
Horsemen Battling
Pen, Brown Ink and Brown Wash - 14 x 20.5 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel Salingue -
Musée des beaux arts de Rennes_2011

4. Antoine Coypel (1556-1622)
Academic Study of Seated Male Nude, Posing as Bacchus
Black Chalk with White Heightening - 54.8 x 39.8 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel Salingue -
Musée des beaux arts de Rennes_2011


As presented, and knowing this is only a small part of the collection the Adriens have assembled (mainly drawings, but also a great number of paintings), this hang presents therefore numerous sheets of very high quality, many of which were previously unpublished. We will mention only a few, such as the large sanguine by Francesco Salviati (ill. 5) which we saw in Caen last year in the exhibition on Italian Renaissance drawings in French collections and for which the Adriens had logically been contacted ; a study for an apse representing The Assumption of the Virgin by Carlo Urbino as well as an oil on paper by Pietro Sorri (ill. 6).
Also from the Italian school, there is a display of several beautiful sheets which remain anonymous, not incorporated into the catalogue (without entries but, still reproduced).


5. Francesco Salviati (1510-1563)
Seated Male Nude
Red Chalk - 37.7 x 24.7 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel

6. Pietro Sorri (1556-1622)
Virgin with Child between Saint Michael and Saint Catherine
Oil on Paper mounted on Panel - 40 x 20 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel Salingue -
Musée des beaux arts de Rennes_2011


The Northern European schools, except for the sheets quoted above and two remarkable ones by Abraham Bloemaert (ill. 7), are more rare, at least in the selection presented here. However, there are abundant examples of the French school, from Charles Le Brun and his beautiful Jupiter Sitting on the Clouds to Oudry’s Hen, as well as two beautiful preparatory studies for The Meal at Emmaüs by Charles-Antoine Coypel, a mysterious Adoration of the Magi attributed to an early 17th century artist, probably close to Vignon, also including one of the masterpieces in the collection, Arria and Poetus by François-André Vincent, preparatory for a painting which recently resurfaced and was acquired by the Saint Louis Art Museum.


7. Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651)
Landscape with Four Trees and Two Women
Pen and brown Ink, Brown Wash, with White Gouache Heightening
19.5 x 26.5 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel Salingue -
Musée des beaux arts de Rennes_2011

8. François-André Vincent (1746-1816)
Arria and Pœtus, 1784
Pen, Black and Brown Ink,
Brown Wash - 41.5 x 50.5 cm
Christian and Isabelle Adrien Collection
Photo : Jean-Manuel Salingue -
Musée des beaux arts de Rennes_2011


We conclude this article by referring our readers to the news item detailing the donation made by the Adriens to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes. Every year, the collectors donate a work to a French museum. It was natural for them to show more generosity to Rennes and offer two items, a drawing and a painting by Jean Restout, both presented in the exhibition.

Curators : Francis Ribemont, Laurence Imbrenon (general curator), Pierre Rosenberg (scholarly curator) and Olivia Savatier Sjöholm.


Collective work, Dessins de la collection Christian et Isabelle Adrien, Editions Nicholas Chaudun, 2012, 208 p., 39€. ISBN : 9782350391281.


Visitor information : Musée des Beaux-Arts, 20 quai Emile Zola, 35000 Rennes. Tel : 02 23 63 17 45. Open every day, except Monday, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. ; Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission : 5.95€ and 3€ (reduced).

Version française


Didier Rykner, mercredi 2 mai 2012



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