Exhibition of the Charles-Louis Müller drawings acquired by the Louvre


1. Charles-Louis
Müller (1815-1892)
Study for Observation
Charcoal, crayon Conté, heightened
with white -
61.8 x 46.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. Rykner

15/6/08 — Acquisitions and exhibition — Paris, Musée du Louvre — The Département des Arts Graphiques at the Louvre organizes very interesting small exhibitions in the “current events” room on the first floor of the Flore wing at regular intervals. The one currently showing until end of August, presents several beautiful drawings by Charles-Louis Müller, of rather large format and which are part of a group of 46 sheets purchased in 2007 by the museum from the Eric Turquin Gallery in Paris [1]. They deal almost exclusively with the décor in the Salon Denon.

Müller is an important artist for the history of the Louvre as he produced many murals there [2]. Starting in 1851, he painted Aurora, a section of the Galerie d’Apollon, after Le Brun, attempting to conform to the style of Louis XIV’s painter. In 1858-1859, he executed the ceiling in the Salle des Etats, an ambitious ensemble which was destroyed under the Troisième République and, ten years later, the central motif on the ceiling of the Mollien stairway, for which the Louvre acquired a studyin 1988 [3].


2. Charles-Louis
Müller (1815-1892)
Study for Thought
Black chalk, crayon Conté, heightened
with white -
61.5 x 46.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. Rykner

3. Charles-Louis
Müller (1815-1892)
Study for Thought
Red chalk, crayon Conté, heightened with
white -
61.5 x 46.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. Rykner


The coupole of the Salon Denon was painted between 1863 and 1866. Although it is barely visible due to poor lighting, thus rarely seen by visitors to the museum who disregard the décors in the palace anyway, this is one of the major decorative ensembles of the Second Empire preserved in Paris. Its structure and iconography are particularly complex, alternating mural paintings and sculpted bas-reliefs in carton-pierre (papier mâché resembling stone). A relief holds center stage with an allegory representing France Writing Before Napoleon III, Protector of the Arts [4]. The ceiling is divided into four parts, the lunettes above each of the walls in the room showing four French sovereigns : Saint Louis, François I, Louis XIV and Napoleon I, surrounded by the most illustrious artists of their time in an arrangement frequently seen in the 19th century and which recalls, within the Louvre itself, the Apotheosis of Homer by Ingres, or Paul Delaroche’s semicircle at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Other bas-relief sculptures represent Painting, Sculpture, Architecture and Engraving whereas eight large painted allegories in trompe l’oeil niches symbolize artistic qualities. The Louvre owns all of the studies : four (Taste, Study, Inspiration and Naïveté) were acquired in 1991 and 1996 (two are in the exhibition). The other four have been placed on deposit at the Musée Carnavalet.

4. Charles-Louis
Müller (1815-1892)
Study for Naïveté
Crayon Conté, heightened with
white -
62 x 46.2 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. Rykner

5. Charles-Louis
Müller (1815-1892)
Study for Thought
Charcoal, crayon Conté, heightened with
white -
62 x 46.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. Rykner


The ten or so drawings exhibited today, in red chalk and Conté crayon, are preparatory for these figures as well as for other female figures which appear in the décor. Müller was still working in the great academic tradition, that of Vouet and Le Brun, by first preparing the figures nude (ill. 1 and 2), then draped (ill. 3 and 4), before executing the painted studies.

In 1990, the Société des Amis du Louvre had already donated 64 sheets which were preliminary studies for the Salle des Etats and the Salon Denon, notably entire compositions. The latest acquisition helps to enrich even further a collection which is very representative of Charles-Louis Müller’s talents as a draughtsman [5].

Version française


Didier Rykner, samedi 21 juin 2008


Notes

[1] Six of the sheets are on both sides (recto-verso), thus totalling 52 drawings. Two sheets are not related to any known décor, one is preparatory for a composition in the Salle des Etats, the others all concern the Salon Denon.

[2] Obviously, this exhibition is not mentioned on the Louvre’s website. However, a small, very fine brochure with color illustrations is available free of charge at the entrance desk under the Pyramid. It was put together by Guillaume Fonkenell, a history scholar for the Louvre. On the décors in the Louvre, one can also read : Nancy Davenport, « Charles-Louis Müller et ses décorations peintes du Louvre », Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, Année 1986, 1988, p. 15-163.

[3] The Salon Denon, the Salle des Etats and the Mollien staircase are a few metres from each other in the same section of the Louvre, built by Visconti under Napoleon III.

[4] This relief was executed after the painted project by Müller held in Compiegne.

[5] Let us remember that in the last few years the Musée de Beauvais, and especially the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris have acquired works by the artist ;in the case of the latter, these are preliminary drawings for his painting of Lady Macbeth



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