New acquisitions for the Musée Hébert

11/5/09- Acquisitions – Paris, Musée Hébert – Ernest Hébert, a painter who is relatively unknown to the public, enjoys the rare privilege of having two museums devoted to his works, one in La Tronche, near Grenoble, and the other in Paris. The second, which depends on the Musée d’Orsay, is currently closed and should open, we hope, after the refurbishment. In the meantime, its exhibitons are presented inside Orsay which is now showing Italiennes modèles [1], a collection of representations of peasants from Italy.
This type of figure was frequent for French painters in Italy during the first half of the 19th century. Some even made it their specialty, such as Léopold Robert and Jean-Victor Schnetz. Hébert’s works are juxtaposed in the exhibition to those of his contemporaries. Thus, visitors can see paintings or watercolours by Jean-François Montessuy, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Achille-Etna Michallon, Paul Delaroche and Dominique Papety, besides the two quoted earlier. This also provides the opportunity for the Musée Hébert to reveal its most recent acquisitions [2], which concern in fact the last two painters mentioned above.

1. Paul Delaroche (1797-1856)
An Apostle or Head of an Italian Pesant, 1835
Dedicated to Paul Rattier
Oil on canvas - 49 x 38 cm
Paris, Musée Hébert
Photo : Galerie Terradès

2. Paul Delaroche (1797-1856)
An Apostle, 1835
Dedicated to the Duke of Feltre
Oil on canvas - 46 x 49 cm
Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : RMN

The Delaroche, purchased from the Terradès Gallery, is a Head of an Italian peasant (ill. 1). In 1834, the painter received a commission for the entire décor of the church of the Madeleine in Paris, that is the half-dome and the six “lunettes” on the side walls. To prepare himself for this immense project, he decided to go to Italy – he had not tried out for the Prix de Rome – to better acquaint himself with the technique for wall painting and find motifs for the décor. He returned notably with several studies of Camaldolite monks done during his stay in their monastery in Tuscany.
The canvas was acquired by the museum as An Apostle, due to the similarity of the subject to the painting at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes with this title (ill. 2). These two figures are perhaps preparatory to the lunette which was to represent The Meal at Simon’s as suggested by the Terradès Gallery’s notes. However, although the attitudes are close to those of some known drawings, it is difficult to draw a conclusion as to their purpose. The lack of any attributes makes it hard to designate apostles for sure, and the title chosen by the Musée Hébert seems acceptable. These are live studies, almost portraits. We know that the décor for the half-dome was finally entrusted to Jules Ziegler and that consequently, Paul Delaroche decided to renounce executing the rest of the commission which was then divided among six different painters.

3. Dominique Papety (1815-1849)
Two Peasants and a Child
Watercolour - 32 x 22 cm, 28.3 x 21.5 cm et 32.4 x 22.3 cm
Paris, Musée Hébert
Photo : Cabinet Blondeau-Bréton

4. Dominique Papety (1815-1849)
Italian Musicians
Watercolour - 32 x 23 cm, 28.2 x 20.4 cm et 33.2 x 22.6 cm
Paris, Musée Hébert
Photo : Cabinet Blondeau-Bréton

This Delaroche, both in the subject and the technique, is easy to recognize and to attribute even if it were not signed. This is not the case for the six watercolours by Dominique Papety (ill. 3 and 4) representing musicians and peasants, grouped together in two settings and acquired from the cabinet Blondeau-Bréton. This type of drawing, for lack of detailed indications or background, is difficult to identify as the works are very similar. The exhibition presents several watercolours by Hébert comparable in style to those by Papety. The latter carry the words “par mon fils H. Papety”. This was added by his father to all of the drawings from the artist’s workshop which he inherited after the premature death of his son.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 11 mai 2009


[1] The exhibition was presented earlier at La Tronche. The curators are Isabelle Julia and Laurence Huault-Nesme.

[2] Strictly speaking, these are acquisitions made by the Musée d’Orsay and put on deposit at the Musée Hébert. These paintings were acquired from René Partis-d’’Uckermann, donor of the museum and they are part of the Musée Hébert inventory.

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