Latest Acquisitions by the Musée de la Vie Romantique

1. Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840)
Papaver Somniferum, 1839
Watercolor and Black Pencil - 46 x 36 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique
Photo : Stéphane Piera/Musée de la Vie Romantique

21/8/12 - Acquisitions - Paris, Musée de la Vie Romantique - The Musée de la Vie Romantique, a setting for the works and souvenirs of Ary Scheffer and George Sand, recreating an atmosphere and a period, continued to enrich its collections in 2011 and 2012 thanks to donations from the Société des Amis of the museum and purchases made by the City of Paris, essentially bronzes and drawings which illustrate both the diversity and the unity of the holdings.
First off, two works on paper, one floral, the other a caricature, give us an idea of the variety of the collections. The former is a watercolor on parchment by Redouté representing a poppy, purchased during the Salon du dessin from the Didier Aaron & Cie gallery and donated by the Amis du musée in 2011 (ill. 1). Known as the "Raphael of flowers", Redouté’s skills charmed Marie-Antoinette as well as Josephine, Marie-Louise and Marie-Amélie (who Ary Scheffer portrayed in fact). Head of the Botanical department at the Muséum d’Histoire naturelle, where he himself had taken classes under Gérard van Spaendonck, Pierre-Joseph Redouté was especially famous for his works on Liliacées (1802-1805) and Roses (1816-1824). Another painter of floral compositions at that time, but Flemish, was also well-known : Jean-François van Dael ; Redouté quickly distinguished himself by taking up only one technique : watercolors on drawings executed in lead pencil on parchment and then reproduced through stippled engraving.
This poppy is characteristic of the watercolors the artist painted at the end of his life, interpreting one species of flower or multi-stemmed plant, composed in "a bouquet without vase" form, presenting it from various angles and at different stages of the flowering. The Musée de Besançon holds a black chalk drawing comparable to part of this sheet. This watercolor reveals the perfect balance found by Redouté between the poetry of a still-life and the exactness of botanists, with shaded colors and an uncluttered composition.

2. Anonymous, France, XIXth century
Caricatural Portrait of Alexandre Dumas, Father, c. 1848
Ink, Pen and Watercolor Wash,
Graphite - 34.5 x 25 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique
Photo : Artcurial

The poppy can be seen in the works of various specialists in botanical illustrations, those who preceded Redouté, such as Nicolas Robert (1614-1685), the famous painter of Julie’s Garland and the author of Recueil de vélins, but also those who followed him, like Alfred Riocreux (1820-1912) and Madeleine Lemaire (1845-1928). Somniferous poppy or wild poppy, garden poppy or opium poppy, it was also the "fleur du mal" of artificial paradises, those of Thomas de Quincey and Charles Baudelaire, while George Sand qualifies it more modestly in Ce que disent les fleurs : The Daisy asserts that "a plant with any self-respect does not announce its presence through its emanations. Its beauty should suffice. I do not agree, cried a large poppy with a strong odor. Smells announce wit and health".

Another sheet which joined the collections, a caricatural portrait of Alexandre Dumas, father, was pre-empted by the City of Paris during the Artcurial auction on 14 February 2012 (ill. 2). The study comes from the ensemble of drawings of writers assembled by Pierre Belfond. Although the museum holds a bust and several engravings showing Dumas, son, who was so close to George Sand that he called her "maman", it did not own any representing the father until now. Seen in profile, with frizzy hair, Dumas is wearing a robe decorated with fictional characters which also seem to be spilling out of his pockets ; drawn on lined music paper with the scores presenting a tapestry effect, it shows a portrait on each side alluding to his black ancestors. He is standing in front of the Théâtre historique which he ordered built in 1847 ; the smoke coming out of the chimneys bears the titles of several of the writer’s plays, Charles VII chez les grands vassaux, La Reine Margot and Monte Cristo, all of which were published before 1848 allowing us to date the sheet. Dumas was obviously portrayed many times over, in paintings, sculptures, photographs, in either serious or humorously acerbic likenesses as his physique and his extravagant manners made for endless sources of inspiration. Thus, he was sketched by Achille Devéria, Musset, Amédée de Noé known as Cham and of course by Jean-Pierre Dantan who included him in his famous bust gallery (Musée Carnavalet).

3. Antoine-Laurent Dantan
called Dantan the Elder (1798-1878)
Reading, 1845
Bronze - 37 x 43.7 x 26.5 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique
Photo : Stéphane Piera/Musée de la Vie Romantique

In the Dantan family, the brother Antoine-Laurent, known as the elder, whose academic style is a far cry from Jean-Pierre’s caricatures, won the Prix de Rome in 1828 with the cast The Death of Hercules on Mount Oeta and resided at the Villa Medicis in Rome from 1829 to 1833. Besides embellishing various Parisian monuments - statues for the Palais du Louvre, Paris city hall, the church of La Madeleine... and busts of prominent figures, he also produced marble or bronze statuettes such as the Young Neapolitan Woman Playing a Tambourine. The Musée de la Vie romantique now owns Reading, purchased by the City of Paris in 2011, representing a mother and her daughter (ill. 3) ; details such as a bracelet and lace are carefully carved with the artist paying attention to the back of the statue as well. The subject of this piece seems to be the affectionate ties between the two figures, rather comparable in fact to Antoine Desbouefs’ Young Mother, while a figure such as A Woman Reading by Dalou reflects the sculptor’s attempt to grasp a spontaneous view of a picturesque attitude rather than a way of life.
Antoine-Laurent Dantan also produced a bust of Rachel, a famous theater actress also represented at the Musée de la Vie romantique thanks to the 2012 acquisition of a medallion of hair and ivory as well as a Liber Amicorum ; the plaster profile of the actress by Vincent Alfred Baron, an actor as well as a sculptor, was donated by Mrs. François Fabius (ill. 4). Rachel, who incarnated some of the greatest heroines of the tragic repertory, was also evoked in the exhibition Théâtres romantiques (see article in French) which recently closed rue Chaptal and was highlighted in an exhibition in 2004 at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (see article in French).

4. Vincent-Alfred Baron (1820-1892)
Plaster Medallion in Profile of Rachel
Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique
Photo : Musée de la Vie Romantique/Roger-Viollet

5. Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850)
Portrait of Gioacchino Rossini, 1830
Bronze - 23 x 11 x 10 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique
Photo : Stéphane Piera/Musée de la Vie Romantique

We continue our review, moving on from theater to music with another bronze which joined the collections, a bust of Rossini designed by Lorenzo Bartolini, purchased in 2011 by the City of Paris. The famous composer was also portrayed countless times : caricatured by Jean-Pierre Dantan, sculpted by David d’Angers, he appears next to George Sand and Dumas in Josef Danhauser’s painting, Liszt at the Piano (1840). Ary Scheffer, who often welcomed him into his home, painted his portrait in 1843 (Cité de la Musique) ; the canvas belonged to the music editor, Eugène Troupenas, as did the bronze bust recently acquired by the Musée de la Vie romantique, signed and dated Bartolini 1830, and for which there is currently no other known version (ill. 5). Its founding, after a bust held in Florence, was produced by Richard, Eck and Durand, probably between 1836 and 1840, as this corresponds to the period during which Louis Richard was associated with the other two.
Lorenzo Bartolini represented a certain number of musical, literary and political figures such as Madame de Staël, Lord Byron, Liszt and of course, Napoleon. We also know of another bust of Rossini by this same artist, similar to this one, residing at the Cité de la Musique.

6. James Pradier (1790-1852)
Ferdinand-Philippe d’Orléans, c. 1842
Bronze - D. 23 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique
Photo : Eric Emo/Musée de la Vie Romantique/Roger-Viollet

Among the likenesses which joined the museum recently, a large bronze medallion was purchased by the Société des Amis at the Christie’s Paris auction of objects from the Palais abbatial de Royaumont on 19, 20 and 21st September 2011 (ill. 6) (see article in French).
After the premature death of Ferdinand-Philippe, Louis-Philippe’s oldest son killed in an accident on 13 July 1842, Pradier was ordered to make a cast of his face, feet and hands. He used it as a model for this medallion which was very popular and for which there are several known replicas, one in plaster at the Musée Condé in Chantilly, another in bronze at the Musée Carnavalet as well as at the Musée Girodet in Montargis and, finally, one by Simonet Fondeur at the Musée d’Art et d’histoire in Geneva. This makes the error appearing in the Christie’s catalogue, where it is attributed to an anonymous artist and identifies the model as being the Prince of Joinville - brother of the departed, all the more strange. The museum of course subsequently corrected this error.
Pradier also produced the statue of the Duke d’Orléans for the Musée de Versailles and a bust whose cast, as well as the marble are now lost but whose bronze resides at the Louvre.

7. Jean-Jacques Feuchère (1807-1852)
Satan, 1833
Bronze - 34.5 x 15.5 x 18.6 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique
Photo : Stéphane Piera/Musée de la Vie Romantique

If there is an icon of Romanticism, we might say it is Satan, here by Jean-Jacques Feuchère, donated by the Société des Amis du musée in 2011, or at least one of the proofs made from the cast exhibited at the Salon of 1834 (ill. 7), for which there are several known bronze replicas, all dated 1833, notably at the LACMA and at the Louvre where it appears between two bat vases over a fireplace. In fact, Feucher preferred to make his work known rather than jealously preserving the original proof. This figure is characteristic of a period due to its subject and technique, since small bronzes were very fashionable in the 1830’s when numbered editions of statuettes became a flourishing business. This was also the epoch in which Dante’s Inferno and Goethe’s Faust inspired many artists, including Ary Scheffer who painted two famous companion pieces : Margaret at the Spinning Wheel and Faust in his Cabinet.
Bowing inwardly, the Fallen Angel, whose melancholy is described in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, translated by Chateaubriand, looks like a blend of a Dürer engraving and a Medieval gargoyle ; he is a precursor to Carpeaux’s terrifying Ugolino as well as Rodin’s The Thinker and seems to have inspired Gustave Moreau in a drawing and a canvas, at the same time alluding to the myth of the accursed artist. However, George Sand gives him a chance at redemption in Consuelo attributing these words to his character : "I am not the devil, I am the archangel of legitimate revolt and the patron of great battles. Like Christ, I am the god of the poor, the weak and the oppressed". We know that Satan was first Lucifer.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, vendredi 24 août 2012

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