Exchange in deposits between Versailles and Montpellier : a Cabanel for an Albani

23/7/10 – Exchange in deposits – Montpellier, Musee Fabre and Versailles, Musee national du chateau – The very beautiful retrospective highlighting Alexandre Cabanel at the Musee Fabre which recently opened for a duration of five months and which we will soon review, has been chosen as the occasion to reveal a large painting by this artist, The Glorification of Saint Louis (ill. 1) to the public. The painting has come a long way as it had been placed on deposit by Versailles at the chateau de Luneville and rolled up but luckily escaped the fire which partly destroyed the building on 2 January 2003 and, alas, a less fortunate canvas, another large format, this time by William Bouguereau, The Body of Saint Cecilia Moved to the Roman Catacombs=0&tx_damzoom_pi1[xmlId]=078036&tx_damzoom_pi1[back]=fr%2Fcollections%2Fcatalogue-des-oeuvres%2Fresultat-col], which did not survive. The Cabanel canvas underwent a thorough restoration in the hands of C2RMF.

1. Alexandre Cabanel
The Glorification of Saint Louis, 1853
Oil on canvas - 442 x 432 cm
Montpellier, Musée Fabre
(On deposit by Versailles)
Photo : Musée Fabre

2. Installation of the The Glorification of Saint Louis
by Alexandre Cabanel in the Musée Fabre
Photo : Didier Rykner

Versailles could not exhibit this painting which in fact did not come from the chateau but was originally commissioned, in 1853, for the royal chapel in Vincennes and exhibited at the Salon of 1855 (that of the Exposition Universelle). Montpellier, the artist’s home town, which owns a large portion of his works, was the perfect place to house this work and has now been hung in one of the museum’s stairwells (ill. 2). This deposit, which is theoretically only a temporary one but will probably become permanent was made possible thanks to an exchange for a painting by Francesco Albani, Adam and Eve Thrown out of Paradise (ill. 3). Previously in Louis XIV’s personal collection as of 1683 and held in the cabinet room of the king’s collector in Versailles, it had been placed by Louis XV over the door of the Antichambre des Chiens. The painting had been removed during the Revolution and placed on deposit in Montpellier by the government in 1803.

3. Francesco Albani, called Albani (1578-1660)
Adam and Eve Thrown out of Paradise, c. 1650-1660
Oil on canvas - 68.5 x 52.5 cm
Versailles, Musée national du château
(on deposit by the Musée Fabre in Montpellier)
Photo : RMN

This is a good example of an intelligent exchange of works between two French museums. Versailles has recovered one of its decorative elements, which will be reinstalled in the Antichambre des Chiens, whereas Montpellier can now exhibit a large painting which fits in perfectly with the rest of its collection.

Didier Rykner, vendredi 23 juillet 2010

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