Noah’s Anger from the Abbey Church at Essomes-sur-Marne is restored

France, XIXth century
Noah’s Anger
Oil on canvas - 450 x 360 cm
Essômes-sur-Marne, abbatiale
Photo : F. Antérion

3/8/10 – Restoration – Essomes-sur-Marnes, Abbatiale – In 2003 we had published (see article in French) five 19th century paintings residing in churches in Picardie. Of the two anonymous works, one was a large canvas with a subject which was also hard to identify for which we had suggested, tempered with a question mark, the possibility of a representation of The Death of Ananie by a French artist between 1820 and 1825.

This work has now undergone restoration [1] thus benefitting from a thorough study and a publication edited by the Association pour la Sauvegarde de l’Abbatiale Saint-Ferreol d’Essomes-sur-Marne. The iconography has been brilliantly ascertained by Philippe Bonnet, chief conservator for heritage, who has signed one of the two essays in this small book : the subject of the painting is in fact Noah’s Anger, a frequent Medieval theme but almost totally abandoned thereafter, until the 19th century when it was treated by a few painters. There is notably a canvas by Emile Signol, unfortunately held at the Musee Granet in Aix-en-Provence, and in poor condition besides, meaning that we will not see it on display soon ; another one is by the very little-known Jean-Baptiste Delestre, a student of Gros, currently at the church of Moret-sur-Loing and also, at the Musee d’Aurillac, a painting by Emile Levy [2].

Its background, determined by a family’s history, has been detailed by Maurice Franche, vice-president of the Association. In 1930 the painting was mounted (maroufle) on the ceiling of a private residence, today destroyed, which was located at 69 rue de Rochechouart belonging to an art canvas manufacturer. At that time, it was passed on to his grandfather who in turn donated it to the church.
The artist, however, has not yet been identified as the canvas is not signed. Philippe Bonnet suggests dating it late in the 19th century. He states that “the canvas, industrially manufactured, cannot be from before 1850” and that “the dynamic composition based on long diagonals, the expression of paroxysmal feelings, the landscape with orientalist tones, the almost Venetian colouring […] allude clearly to the second wave of Romanticism which developed in the 1860’s and 1870’s, illustrated notably by Henri Levy or Eugene Thirion”.
The argument concerning the canvas support seem unfounded to us. Industrial canvases date back as far as the late 18th century and there was no significant revolution in their manufacturing in the middle of the 19th, to our knowledge. As for the style, in our opinion it appears to correspond to a late Neo-Classical work painted during the Restauration, in any case most likely before 1850. We do however, remain cautious in our appraisal as we have not seen a photograph of the work. Let us hope that a trace will be discovered in archives or else that a study or preparatory drawings will resurface one day soon enabling art historians to identify the artist of this painting and thus finally determine an exact date for it.

Gerard de Galard and Philippe Bonet, La Colère de Noé, Association por la Sauvegarde de l’Abbatiale Saint-Ferreol, 2010, 39 p., 12 euros. No ISBN.

This book cannot be found in stores and must be ordered directly through the Association. Further information can be found here.

Didier Rykner, mardi 3 août 2010


[1] Funded by the Conseil General de l’Aisne (32,890 euros), the Fondation Pays de France of the Credit Agricole (25,000 euros), the city of Essomes-sur-Marnes (7.890 euros) and Le Pelerin, 2007 contest : Un patrimoine pour Demain (5.000 euros).

[2] These three works are illustrated in the book, Signol’s via an engraving.

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