Recent acquisitions in sculpture at the Musée du Louvre

19/6/10 – Acquisitions – Paris, Musée du Louvre – During the two-year period of 2008 and 2009, aside from acquiring a fragment from the tomb of Jean de Lièges which we already mentioned here [1], the Département des sculptures at the Louvre was able to add the following pieces to its collections :

A 16th century German Christ with Branches (ill. 1) was donated in March 2008 by the Société des Amis du Louvre. This type of representation in polychromatic wood, initially placed on a base with wheels, was drawn along in processions on Palm Sunday recalling Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey. The oldest known example is held at the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum in Zurich and dates from the late 12th century [2]. There are other Christs with Branches, notably at the Musée de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame and in Colmar at the Musée d’Unterlinden. In 2005, the Musée de Cluny had acquired one of these Christs, dated one hundred years earlier (ill. 2).

1. Southern Germany, Souabe, c. 1520-1525
Christ with Branches
Polychromatic wood - 135 x 120 x 41 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

2. Southern Germany, second half of the XVth century
Christ with Branches
Polychromatic wood - 122 x 100 x 44 cm
Paris, Musée national du Moyen Age
Photo : Musée du Moyen Age

A small sculpture of The Child Jesus (ill. 3), created in Malines around 1500, acquired in September 2009. The Malines workshops specialized in devotional statuettes which were then sent to Brussels for the polychromatic finish. Most of these are representations of the Virgin and only about ten or so comparable Child Jesus figures dating from around 1500 are known.
These wooden sculptures were then clothed by the nuns at the convents for which they were produced. We refer our readers to a document posted online by the Louvre presenting this acquisition. A fundraising drive had collected the needed funds for restoring this work which is now exhibited in the Denon Pavilion, late-Gothic room.

3. Malines, c. 1500
The Child Jesus (before restoration)
Polychromatic wood - 32.5 x 12 x 8.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

4. Paul Egell (1691-1752)
Mary Magdalene and A Prophet
Wood - H. 12 cm et 11.2 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre / Harry Bréjat

A pair of studies in wood (ill. 4), an unusual support for this purpose, by the German Rococo sculptor, Paul Egell who was a student of Balthasar Permoser and practiced his art mostly at the Mannheim court. This acquisition, made in April 2009, is particularly important for the Louvre’s Germanic sculpture collection since this artist’s works are extremely rare as a consequence of WWII bombings.

A terracotta by the British sculptor Henry Cheere (ill. 5), added in September 2009, representing a Woman Leaning on the Corner of a Tomb Holding a Book, no doubt a preparatory study for a figure on a funerary monument rather than an individual sculpture. Like most 18th century English sculptors, Henry Cheere produced many tombs, notably for Westminster Abbey. This is the first work by Cheere to join a French collection.

5. Henry Cheere (1703-1781)
Woman Leaning on the Corner of a Tomb Holding a Book
Terracotta with black patina - 41 x 23 x 15 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre / Harry Bréjat

6. Claude Michel called Clodion (1738-1814)
Briseis Leaving Achilles(?), c. 1775
Terracotta - 45 x 35.3 x 21.5 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre / Harry Bréjat

A terracotta by Clodion (ill. 6), probably representing Briseis Leaving Achilles, which joined the Louvre in April 2009. This group had been one of the discoveries highlighted in the retrospective on the sculptor at the Louvre in 1992 with a provenance from a private collection in Paris. Guilhem Scherf wrote in the catalogue [3] : “[This] group by Clodion fits into a framework of similar works which allows us to date it around 1775-1777 […] during a period in his artistic itinerary in which he favored compositions with literary subjects, influenced by the restrictions of bas-relief, and executed in a free style in which draped effects play a major role.”

Didier Rykner, samedi 19 juin 2010


[1] See the news item of 15/6/09. We have also presented articles on the works by Chinard (see news item of 10/2/10) and Guillaume Coustou (news item of 15/6/10) added in early 2010.

[2] This information comes from the presentation page for the Christ with Branches acquired by Cluny in 2005 written by Xavier Dectot.

[3] Clodion, Paris, 1992, p. 314.

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