Fundraising appeal for the acquisition of a Natoire for the château in Compiegne

1. Natoire’s Gallery
Château de Compiègne
Photo : Didier Rykner

17/5/10 – Fundraising drive – Compiègne, Musée national du château – The tapestry series, The Story of Don Quijote, is made up of ten pieces woven from cartoon designs by Charles Natoire. Commissioned by Pierre Grimod Dufort, this ensemble was produced by the Beauvais factory between 1735 and 1744 and, except for the one which disappeared sometime before 1829, Dorothy Surprised by the Priest, the Barber and Cardeno, the series now belongs to the Musée des Tapisseries in Aix-en-Provence [1].

The cartoons, totaling thirteen at the time, were originally held at the château d’Orsay until 1793. One of these, The Departure of Sancho Panza for the Island of Barataria, had been cut up into three parts by Grimod Dufort’s son. The ensemble was then looted during the Revolution, moved to Versailles then to the Museum central des arts and finally to the Louvre. However, three canvases (Sancho Leading the Fake Dulcinea to his Master, Don Quijote Meets the Duchess, Don Quijote Disarmed by the Duchess’ Ladies in Waiting) had disappeared and, until now, nothing was known about their whereabouts.
In 1859, the Louvre placed the remaining ten paintings on deposit in Compiègne, and these were inserted with large gilt frames into the wood paneling of the Galerie Neuve, recently built by Ancelet, the architect, and which soon became known as the Galerie Natoire (ill. 1).

2. Charles Natoire (1700-1777)
Don Quijote Disarmed by the Duchess’ Ladies
in Waiting
, c. 1742
Oil on canvas - 295 x 251 cm
Private collection
Photo : Château de Compiègne

One of the three missing canvases, Don Quijote Disarmed by the Duchess’ Ladies in Waiting (ill. 2), recently resurfaced on the art market [2]. The work has now been listed as a Trésor national, a move enabling the museum to launch a fundraising drive for its acquisition, corresponding to a total of 300,000€ [3], as well as offering other advantages [4].

We will soon discuss the current situation of the Trésors nationaux. This measure and the law on patronage have allowed museums to acquire very important works for some years. Unfortunately, today’s crisis calls for a review given its lack of effectiveness at the moment. We can only hope that due to the relatively modest price of this acquisition a large company will see fit to benefit from the tax deduction and donate this Natoire cartoon to the château in Compiègne [5].

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 17 mai 2010


[1] The intricate history of the tapestries and cartoons is thoroughly described in the exhibition catalogue for Don Quichotte vu par un peintre du XVIII siècle : Natoire, 1977, Compiègne and Aix-en-Provence. Most of the information for this article can be found in the catalogue.

[2] With the assistance of Etienne Bréton, Saint-Honoré Art Consulting.

[3] Let us recall that companies which contribute to the acquisition of a Trésor national can deduct 90% of the amount spent from company taxes. [However, the total cannot exceed 50% of the tax bill].

[4] Invitations to events, free entrance for clients and personnel, use of locales…

[5] Contacts at the château de Compiègne : 03 44 38 47 31 / 75 92 / 47 35.

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