Posting of the Repertory of Italian paintings held in France

26/6/08 — Internet — Database — The INHA (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art) has just posted the first part of one its most highly awaited databases, the Répertoire des tableaux italiens dans les collections publiques françaises XIIIe-XIXe siècles (RETIF), carried out under the supervision of Michel Laclotte by a team working over several years. Three regions (as well as the Musée de Douai in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais) are already online ; the others will follow.

1. Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652)
Blessing Christ
Oil on canvas - 110 x 86 cm
Nivillac, Church
Photo : INHA

This listing concerns Italian paintings on any support, including paper, except for mural décors produced by Italian artists in France (another study will be devoted to these). Foreign painters who spent their entire career in Italy (such as Denys Calvaert, Livio Mehus and Lambert Sustris) are included in the database, except for those who historically are part of another school such as Poussin, Claude and Jusepe de Ribera [1]. Paintings formerly ascribed to the Italian school are also taken into account. There is, for example, Bust of Christ Giving a Blessing in Profile by Ribera (ill. 1), which until now had been ascribed to the Master of Solomon’s Judgement, but which today, thanks to Gianni Papi, is known to be from Ribera’s early work in Rome [2]. All successive attributions are also given, which is very useful, especially when the name of the artist is not yet sure in order to better determine the environment in which the work might be placed, providing valuable information on the evolution of connoisseurship. All of the copies, quality allowing (only very poor works are excluded from this repertory), have been inventoried, as well as works which have been destroyed.

The authors have proceeded on the excellent principle that a bad photograph is better than no photograph at all. Most of them are in any case very fine and of a good size. There are some regrettable lacks such as for the church of Saint-Denis in Amboise which holds several remarkable paintings [3]. The works in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres are also poorly represented. No doubt these gaps will be corrected progressively.

The database is well thought out and the search tools userfriendly, making it easy to navigate. The following is a selective choice, not reflecting the complete listing, of notable new items.


2. Rome, second half of the 17th century
The Virgin and the Child Crushing Heresy
Oil on canvas - 178 x 118 cm
Ploemeur, Church of Saint-Pierre

At the Musée de Quimper, an important Lombard painting, The Torture of Regulus, for whom an attribution is pending between Daniele Crespi and Giulio Cesare Procaccini, had never been published.

Among the other unpublished works, there is a beautiful Roman anonymous work of the 17th century in the Church of Saint Pierre in Ploemeur, (ill. 2) ; a painting by Palma Giovane, The Lamentation of Christ, donated by a Parisian collector in the 1990’s to the Church of Saint-Lunaire ; a nice painting by a relatively familiar artist, Filippo Zaniberti (ill. 3) which is held at the Musée des Jacobins in Morlaix. This last work, like the other 17th century works in this article and those held in museums are missing from the excellent repertory prepared by Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée and Nathalie Volle [4], proof that discoveries are always waiting to be made.

3. Filippo Zaniberti (1585-1636)
The Childhood
of Ascanius

Oil on canvas - 115 x 151 cm
Morlaix, Musée des Jacobins
Photo : Musée de Morlaix


Of the new works in this region, one of the more beautiful ones is ascribed to Jacopo Amigoni at the Hospice in Issoudun (ill. 4) ; a Christ and Saint Peter, probably from 17th century Genoa in the church of Levroux ; a Holy Family with an Angel attributed to Lorenzo Garbieri in Vendôme (Church of the Trinity). Although most of the paintings are from the 17th and 18th centuries, as elsewhere, there is nonetheless an interesting panel from an altarpiece by the artist from Piemonte Macrino d’Alba, held in the Church in Chautary (ill. 5).

4. Attributed to Jacopo Amigoni (c. 1675-1752)
The Emperor Alexander Paying
Tribute to the Grand Priest

Oil on canvas - 94.5 x 112.5 cm
Issoudun, Musée de l’Hospice Saint-Roch
Photo : J. Bernard

5. Macrino d’Alba (c. 1465-c. 1528)
The Entombment
Oil on panel - 80 x 172 cm
Le Chautay, Church
Photo : Médiahèque de l’Architecture et
du Patrimoine

Although Loche is still advertising its so-called “Caravaggios”, the repertory correctly reflects these whimsical attributions by listing them as copies [5]. Nonetheless, they continue to be exhibited in Loches under this prestigious name, leaving tourists a bit mystified and asking them to pay 3 € [6]...

Poitou Charente

Although major museums (Brest, Rennes, Quimper, Orléans and Tours) dominate the first two regions, this one, with the exception of Poitiers, stands out by the fact that Italian paintings are scattered throughout several small museums (Cognac, Niort, La Rochelle...) Of special interest, a beautiful Venetian anonymous work representing Love (ill. 6) in La Rochelle and a painting by Giovanni Battista Lenardi in the Church of Notre-Dame in Chauvigny [7] (ill. 7).

6. Attributed to
Venetian School, 17th Century
Oil on canvas - 151 x 108 cm
La Rochelle, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Musées d’Art et d’Histoire
de La Rochelle

7. Giovanni Battista Lenardi (1656-1704)
The Martyrdom
of Saint Leger

Oil on canvas - 210 x 145 cm
Chauvigny, Church of Notre-Dame
Photo : Médiathèque de l’Architecture et
du Patrimoine

By making such a repertory available online (which should under no circumstances discourage the publication of catalogues raisonnés on paper), the INHA provides an invaluable tool for art historians and fulfills its role superbly. Since many of the works remain anonymous, no doubt some of these will in this way find a definitive attribution. The flexibility of internet, which allows for regular updates, will inevitably allow further additions. We would like to suggest to the authors — and this should be a basic rule for any internet database — that they include a section entitled “Novelties online” which would list the latest modifications at regular intervals so that they are not overlooked.

Version française

Didier Rykner, dimanche 29 juin 2008


[1] All of this is explained by Michel Laclotte, in charge of the project.

[2] We should also note that a Saint Paul from Ribera’s workshop in the Musée de Rennes is also catalogued.

[3] One is attributed to Francesco del Cairo, another one to Francesco Curradi, one is a work from the workshop of Carlo Dolci for which the title seems to have been omitted and The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau attributed to Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari

[4] Arnaud Brejon de Lavergnée, Arnauld et Volle, Nathalie. Musées de France. Répertoire des peintures italiennes du XVIIe siècle. Paris : éd. de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988.

[5] The last reference in the bibliography is missing, however (Clovis Whitfield, “Prospero Orsi, interprète du Caravage”, Revue de l’Art, n° 155, 2007), in which the paintings are “ascribed to Prospero Orsi”, an attribution which seems to be far from unanimous, but which should appear nonetheless in the database.

[6] We visited Loches a year ago after being invited there by city hall only to confirm de visu what is clearly visible in any good photograph : these paintings are only copies.

[7] The painting was published by Henri Roy in 2000 in Le Pays Chauvinois.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : The Eiffel railbridge in Bordeaux saved by proceedings for listing

Next article in News Items : The Rembrandt which reappeared last year in England is authentic