Recent acquisitions by the Museo Soumaya in Mexico City

1. Jean-Auguste-Dominique
Ingres (1780-1864)
Paolo and Francesca
Huile sur toile - 25.7 x 22.5 cm
Mexico City, Museo Soumaya
Photo : Sotheby’s New York

27/5/08— Acquisitions — Mexico City, Museo Soumaya — Carlos Slim was listed as the richest man in the world by Forbes magazine in 2007. Of both Lebanese and Mexican origins, he heads two telecommunications companies Carso and Telmex. Like many other North American magnates, this wealth has allowed him to create several educational, social and cultural foundations. The Museo Soumaya, bearing his wife’s first name, opened to the public in 1994 and contains one of the most beautiful classical collections assembled over the last few years. A true achievement in that it does not consist of a sampling of excellent paintings and sculptures put together haphazardly, rather, on the contrary, an ensemble reflecting a real personality with the objects relating to each other through plastic and intellectual links, and based on a true pedagogical and scholarly project. Going from the primitives to the historical avant-gardes, the collection possesses some strong points (Venetian 16th century, Spanish painting, the Brueghel family, Rodin and the Impressionists…) [1]. It is also representative of the local context with a section of first rate colonial paintings. A vast museum complex is currently underway in a park in the centre of Mexico City. A new building housing the Museo Soumaya will open in 2010 as well as another devoted to a collection of contemporary art from developing countries belonging to the Jumex foundation. These examples have in fact motivated other Latin American entrepreneurs to start assembling collections of old European masters (please refer to some previous news items in French on La Tribune de l’Art, for example the Pérez Simon collection exhibited in Madrid) [2].

From January through August 2008, the Museo Soumaya is presenting an exhibition called “El amor hasta la locura” (Love till Madness), with the subtitle : “erotic as well as mystical transport”, which compares the passions of the body and those of the spirit, be they carnal or contemplative. The subject, allowing for a different view of some of the works in the collection such as Cranach’s Adam and Eve or the Baroque representations of saints in ecstasy, is also the occasion to show the most recent acquisitions, including Paolo and Francesca by Ingres (ill. 1) [3]. Towards 1845, the French artist painted three versions of this episode taken from Dante which he had already treated earlier in his career [4] ; the lovers were then seen standing, Francesca on the left and Paolo on the right. In the second series [5], the focus is closer up, the male figures have changed places. The Soumaya version [6] is different from the others by its square format and the absence of the lute and other accessories ; the only thing remaining here are the three protagonists and the falling book. Nevertheless, it retains the refined troubadour atmosphere and the subtle eroticism of the larger canvases.

2. Carlo Francesco Nuvolone
Mary Magdalen Repenting
Huile sur toile - 66 x 51.5 cm
Mexico City, Museo Soumaya
Photo : Museum press office

3. Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Woman Washing, c. 1906
Pastel - 66.1 x 57.6 cm
Mexico City, Museo Soumaya
Photo : Museum press office

4. Jacopo Comin (ex Robusti), known
as Tintoretto (1518-1594)
Deploration of Christ, c. 1556-1559
Oil on canvas - 52 x 75 cm
Mexico , Museo Soumaya
Photo : Museum press office

Among the other acquisitions shown here which have recently enriched the collections there are also a Mary Magdalene by the Lombard painter Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (ill. 2), a pastel by Edgar Degas (ill. 3) and a Reclining Nude by Henri Lebasque dating from 1923.
A Deploration of Christ by Tintoretto (ill. 4), a theme which the artist treated several times throughout his career [7], has also entered the museum collections. The museum in Nancy owns a similar composition in a larger format.

Internet Website of the Museo Soumaya

Version française

Michel de Piles, mardi 27 mai 2008


[1] See the exhibition catalogue Tesoros del Museo Soumaya de México, Madrid, Sala de Exposiciones BBVA, 2004.

[2] This South American or Russian clientele, educated in classical art, balances out the absence of North American and French clients on the market who prefer to buy contemporary art.

[3] 3. It was sold on 18 April 2007 at Sotheby’s New York for $264,000.

[4] Chantilly, muse Condé (1814) ; Angers, musée des Beaux-Arts ; Birmingham, Barber Art Institute ; Bayonne, Musée Bonnat.

[5] There is a version in Glenns Falls, Hyde Collection.

[6] Daniel Ternois and Ettore Camesasca, Tout l’oeuvre peint d’Ingres, Paris, 1984, new revised edition by Robert Fohr, n° 140c, p. 112.

[7] It was sold for 96,000£ at Sotheby’s London on 5 July 2006.

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