Fortunately, the development of databases on Internet in no way hampers the publication of museum catalogues, which continue to flourish. The following is an overview of the most recent ones on French museum collections, except for the one on French drawings in Darmstadt, part of which were presented recently at the Louvre.
Catalogue of Italian paintings at the Musée du Louvre
The last concise catalogue of Italian paintings in the Louvre dates back to 1981 (a complete list of its holdings, both French and foreign, was published between 1979 and 1986). Almost thirty years later, the Italian school now inaugurates a new series of concise catalogues. In the meantime, two volumes of the catalogue raisonné of 17th century works were published, as well as catalogues on the
Kaufmann-Schlageter and Lemme donations along with those on new acquisitions.
Some pictures (in black and white) are bigger than in 1981, others, strangely enough, are smaller. Of these, some are barely visible (The Presentation at the Temple by Gentile da Fabriano for example). The main differences concern the bibliography and historical notices. Essential publications are quoted whereas in the previous editions only Louvre catalogues were mentioned. As for the historical notices, this is a totally new section as before, the only background included was to explain how the work entered the museum. Finally, instead of just listing the artists alphabetically regardless of their century, they have been classified according to periods (13th-15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries). Among those works that are no longer in the collections since the appearance of the last catalogue, we should recall the painful cases of Moretto da Brescia, Bernardo Strozzi, Alessandro Magnasco and Giambattista Tiepolo, M.N.R. returned to the Gentili di Giuseppi heirs. Although these restitutions were indeed legitimate, we regret that the Louvre did not do more to buy them back. In 2000, it is quite possible that the museum did not have the means to purchase the Tiepolo which entered the Getty Museum that same year. But the Strozzi reappeared at auction in 2007 at Sotheby’s where it was sold for $450,000 and the Louvre can no longer be considered poor today. We also wonder why the other M.N.R., which until now were catalogued in the museum collections, are only mentioned in the annex and are not even illustrated (which would have shown that M.N.R. 256, by Andrea Solario, is an Annunciation and not a Visitation). The fact that these paintings, listed in the inventories for the Département des Arts Graphiques and the Département des Objets d’Art, are not included in the catalogue, except for a simple mention, is all the more enigmatic since we are constantly being reminded of the advantages of cross-referencing collections.
1. Attribué à Giovanni di Tommmasino
Crivelli (connu de 1434 à 1481)
Christ on the Cross adored by
Saint Francis of Assisi
Oil on panel - 54.1 x 18 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre, déposited at the
Musée du Petit-Palais in Avignon
Photo : RMN
In concluding, we would like to point out the donation made by Giovani and Claire Sarti, which is apparently mentioned for the first time here, of a panel from an altarpiece ascribed to Giovanni di Tommasino Crivelli (ill. 1) and which was to have been placed on deposit in 2007 at the Musée du Petit-Palais d’Avignon which also has on deposit from the Louvre an Annunciation, probably the main panel of this triptych.
Collective work, Catalogue des peintures italiennes du musée du Louvre, Editions Gallimard, 2007, 280 p., 79.50 €. ISBN : 978-2-07-011856-4.
Pastels and drawings. Catalogue of the collections. Musée Cognacq-Jay
To accompany the publication of this new catalogue, the Musée Cognacq-Jay is exhibiting its most beautiful sheets (through 13 July 2008). Almost twenty years after inaugurating the newly remodelled museum, which moved from the former luxury department store the Samaritaine to a private hôtel in the Marais district, the new curator of the museum, José de los Llanos, can now rethink some of the arrangements which seemed poorly chosen even from the very start. The rooms on the ground floor will now be devoted to temporary exhibitions whereas modifications in the itinerary and hang of the permanent collection have made it clearer and more pleasant while allowing for the display of a maximum number of works. Thérèse Burollet, who directed the museum for many years when it was on the Boulevard des Capucines, provides us with what is called in cinema a “remake” of the catalogue that she had already published in 1980 . She generally reproduces the notices with some additions, certain attributions have been qualified and new works have entered in the 1990’s, not necessarily the best selections either (some sheets acquired then have turned out to be a bit weak, even with dubious attributions now corrected by the catalogue).
Although this book is very complete and carries all of the necessary critical apparatus, its only flaw is that it treats a rather boring collection. The drawings acquired by the Cognac-Jay are essentially genre scenes of a more or less amorous sort, very typical of the 18th century. The catalogue is full of these small masters such as Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, Nicolas Lavreince, Jean-Baptiste Huet, Philibert-Louis Debucour, Jean-Baptiste Mallet and Jean-Baptiste Leprince who represent shepherdesses, small dogs or “late repentances”… The paintings, sculptures and furniture in the museum are much more interesting.
Nevertheless, the catalogue includes a group of remarkable pastels by Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, a few rare sheets by British artists such as Hugh Douglas Hamilton, several important works by Watteau and a superb portrait by Ingres in lead pencil which seems somehow stranded among all these sweet things.
Thérèse Burollet, Pastels et dessins, Musée Cognacq-Jay. Musée du XVIIIe siècle de la Ville de Paris, Paris Musées, 2008, 350 p., 49 €. ISBN : 978-2-7596-0039-7.
French 18th century painting. Catalogue raisonné. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours. Château d’Azay-le-Ferron
The collection of 18th century French painting in Tours is one of the largest among provincial museums. It has also been one of the best studied because after being catalogued in 1962 by Boris Lossky in the collection “Inventaire des collections publiques fançaises”, it once again fell under the eye of Sophie Join-Lambert in a remarkable publication. All of the paintings are illustrated in large color reproductions  ; the notices are very complete and well-documented. The only (small) criticism might be the lack of an index between the two catalogues.
Over the last forty-five years, many attributions have been qualified and a great number of works have entered the collection. The largest contribution was that of the A. P. Mirimonde collection bequeathed in 1985, of which several works were attributed to Tours in 1986. Let us remember that a catalogue of this bequest was published subsequently.
It would be impossible to comment on all the discoveries resulting from this book. We will simply point out some of the biggest changes since the 1962 catalogue.
2. Charles Lamy (1689-1743)
The Assumption of the Virgin, 1734
Oil on canvas - 325.5 x 223 cm
Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Patrick Boyer
The work confirms changes in attribution which have already been published. Thus, the Presumed Portrait of Mademoiselle Duclos is no longer ascribed to Riguad but the less famous André Bouys, the anonymous study of The Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple is now ascribed to Nicolas-Guy Brenet and the Allegory on the Death of Marat has been ascribed to Louis-Jacques Durameau and published by Anne Leclair in her monographic study. Two paintings from the château de Chanteloup, obviously by the same hand and in the same series as a third signed by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houël have been reattributed, as is logical, to this painter of whom the museum holds several other works. A Seashore ascribed simply to the school of Joseph Vernet is now attributed to Adrien Manglard’s workshop.
The color reproductions, often full-page, help some paintings such as the Portrait of Father Elisée, the King’s Preacher, by the little-known François-Louis Brossard de Beaulieu. As a matter of fact, the museum holds many works which are quite noteworthy by artists who are nevertheless relatively unknown : Perseus beheading Medusa by Joseph Christophe ; The Adoration of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary by Jean-Faur Courrège (also known as Jean Corrège) ; The Flagellation of Christ by Joseph-Ferdinand-François Godefroy de Veaux ; The Assumption of the Virgin (ill. 2) and The Nuns of Notre-Dame de la Charité du Refuge in Adoration before the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary by Charles Lamy ; The Sacrifice of Jephte’s Daughter by Pierre de Saint-Yves.
3. Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (1715-1783)
Portrait de Claude Houbronne
Oil on canvas - 81.7 x 65 cm
Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Gérard Dufrêne
One of the outstanding characteristics of the museum in Tours, recently highlighted during the exhibition L’apothéose du geste, is the extensive number of studies in their holdings. Several acquisitions have been made in the last few years : from Hyacinthe Collin de Vermont in 1973, by way of Henri de Favanne in 1983 and Carle Van Loo in 1986, to just recently in 2007 (see news item of 23/6/07) with another oil study by Henri de Favanne . Among the acquisitions since the 1962 catalogue, one of the most important works is the Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Rose-Moussard by Nicolas de Largillière which in fact balances out the declassification of a Self-portrait by the same artist into an “atelier” work and which is simply a reproduction of the original acquired by Washington in 2006. Let us point out another beautiful painting : Leucothée Welcomed by the Nereides by Sebastien II Le Clerc, purchased in 1999.
Srangely, most of the paintings from Chanteloup were not mentioned in the 1962 catalogue. A fine landscape by Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (cat. 101), which resurfaced in storage, was totally unpublished. A spectacular discovery was the Portrait of Claude Houbronne d’Auvringhen (ill. 3) which entered the museum collections in 1972 and had been held since then in storage ; it appears here as an important painting by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau.
Sophie Join-Lambert, Peintures françaises du XVIIIe siècle. Catalogue raisonné. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours. Château d’Azay-le-Ferron, SilvanaEditoriale, 456 p., 35 €. ISBN : 97888-3660998-7.
Saint-Etienne, old masters collection
True, the city of Saint-Etienne takes good care of its old masters collection. After having restored the works, the museum is now publishing them, but it is not showing them. All of its sculptures and paintings have been held in storage since 1987. This brave publication, thus, is a double-edged sword. By revealing everything that it is hiding from the public, Saint-Etienne is opening itself up to criticism.
Although the most important pieces are from the 19th century – we shall come back to these – neither the 17th nor the 18th are overlooked. There are even several very important works on deposit from the Louvre… We are legitimately concerned in knowing if it is normal that such crucial paintings as Christ Entering Jerusalem by Charles Le Brun, Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas in Lystra, a large canvas by Nicolaes Berchem and Abraham and the Angels by Sebastiano Ricci be relegated to the storage rooms when they would be the apple’s eye of many provincial cities which take pride in opening up their museums. Saint-Etienne also holds important paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre and Charles Natoire. We could quote still more old masters whose presence in the reserves is inexcusable. As concerns the 19th century, the collection is all the more remarkable since most of the works are barely known. Several major names such as Gustave Courbet, Théodore Géricault, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Rodin and Barye (once again, in the case of the last two, deposited there by the Louvre !) can be found there, and most notably many important paintings from the Lyon school (Hippolyte Flandrin, Louis Janmot, Claude Bonnefond, Michel Genod…), a group of statuettes by Antonin Moine, one of the best Romantic sculptors and also the painter of a large canvas representing The Abduction of Dejanire (a detail of which makes up the cover of this catalogue) and a rich Symbolist and Nabis collection (Maurice Denis, Alexandre Séon, Alphonse Osbert…).
Although all the works are listed, less than one hundred out of the 680 carry an entry. Some important canvases strangely enough lack any notes (such as a Louis-Léopolde Boilly – Louvre deposit –, one of the two Otto Marseus van Schriek pieces owned by the museum, four large paintings by Alexandre Caminade and a canvas by Philippe-Auguste Hennequin, especially). These entries, by experienced art historians, are generally very thorough but, regrettably, lack totally any bibliography or historical background, incomprehensible for a catalogue which will undoubtedly become the essential reference work for this collection.
The museum website is planning to put the collections online shortly. At this time, it has not yet done so.
Collective work, L’Art ancien au Musée d’art moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole, Editions Un, Deux....Quatre, 336 p., 30 €. ISBN : 978-2-35145-070-3.
Around Ingres in Montauban
A former curator at the Musée Ingres, Georges Vigne is one of the foremost specialists on the painter’s work. In this book, he catalogues all of the objects related to the artist (except for the drawings). As often happens in this type of work, the most fascinating information is found behind the scenes, lesser known facts or that which, as concerns the more famous pieces, is at times under debate. Hence, Georges Vigne adopts Hélène Toussaint’s opinion in withdrawing the attribution of the two small landscapes in tondo and ascribing them to Alexandre Desgoffe. He demonstrates clearly, in fact, that these two paintings cannot be the works (perhaps drawings) sent by Ingres to his fiancée Julie Forestier as was claimed for many years. On the other hand, he cautiously suggests ascribing to Ingres a small painting (bearing a signature) donated to the museum in 2002 representing a View of the Gardens at the Villa Medicis, which he had already published in 2003.
A very interesting section is formed by “works and documents for works by Ingres”, that is, objects or studies used by the artist as models for the execution of his paintings. There are painted studies produced by students, the most famous being the Study of a Negro by Théodore Chasseriau, as well as reduced wooden and wax models of Roman helmets made in Italy in the late 18th century.
The third chapter : “images by Ingres”, that is the painted, sculpted and photographed portraits of the master and his wife Madeleine (the museum does not seem to have any likeness of his second wife Delphine). It includes the recently acquired Self-portrait copied by Julie Forestier. The following section is devoted to posthumous portraits with projects for monuments, both the one for Etex for which the museum holds a plaster mock-up with the completed version standing today in the city, and those for Alexandre Falguière and Jacques Maillet which were never executed.
The next-to-last section of the catalogue is devoted to copies of Ingres’ works. Three dimensional transcriptions are not necessarily the least interesting ones, such as the statuette representing the Duke of Orléans or the grand plaster medallion painted by Oudiné which repeats the composition of the décor at the Hôtel de Ville, Apotheosis of Napoleon 1st, which was destroyed in the fire set off by the Commune in 1871. The book ends with objects and souvenirs belonging to Ingres, including the famous violin, now part of an idiomatic French expression.
The author’s entries, finely inspired by his subject, are a pleasure to read and highly interesting. Ingres art lovers are sure to enjoy the book.
Georges Vigne, Ingres. Autour des peintures du musée de Montauban, Musée Ingres-Montauban, 2007, 160 p. ISBN unknown.
French drawings from the Darmstadt Museum. 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
This work was published at the time of the exhibition organized at the Musée du Louvre. It goes far beyond the scope of the show as it is a complete catalogue of French drawings (before the 19th century) from this German museum. Pierre Rosenberg is largely responsible for its contents, thus continuing to explore German establishments for discoveries of paintings or drawings, often unpublished .
We would first like to point out the quality of the publication to which Gourcuff Gradenigo, co-editor along with the Louvre, has accustomed us. All of the drawings are reproduced in color and the work contains all the necessary critical apparatus for a scholarly catalogue. The entries are prepared by Dominique Cordellier for the 16th, Pierre Rosenberg for the 17th and Peter Märker for the 18th centuries. Those for the first period are much more complete than the texts of the other two authors. This may be due to the fewer number of works (about a dozen drawings as opposed to almost 200 and over 200 for the following centuries).
4. France, second half of XVIIth century
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, blue watercoulour, heightened with white bodycolour - 27.8 x 25,2 cm
Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum
Photo : D. R.
As in the case of the Weimar catalogue (see article), unedited works are extensive. For the 16th century alone, Dominique Cordellier has notably discovered a Jean Cousin le Père (the museum owns two) and a red chalk by Martin Fréminet (out of three). In the 17th century we find a rich ensemble of works on paper by Jacques Bellange, Jacques Callot, Charles de La Fosse, Laurent de La Hyre, Charles Le Brun, Adam Frans Van der Meulen and Simon Vouet. There are also drawings by François Verdier which are among some of the most beautiful sheets by an artist of very uneven quality. Among the new attributions there are Philippe de Champaigne, Nicolas Chaperon, Jean Daret, Claude Lorrain, Raymond La Fage… Just for the pleasure of it, we would like to point out a superb sheet by Charles Le Brun, a study for the head of Saint Etienne in the May representing the saint’s martyrdom (Notre-Dame), practically unpublished, rejected by Jennifer Montagu but with an acknowledgement by Pierre Rosenberg of the artist’s signature which merits reflection. Among those drawings which are impossible to identify, we publish here one of the most enigmatic, and also one of the most beautiful (ill. 4).
A great number of 18th century drawings are also published here for the first time : Louis-Gabriel Blanchet, Michel-François Dandré-Bardon, Philibert-Benoît de La Rue et Louis-Félix de La Rue, Charles Natoire, Charles Parrocel, Pierre Peyron, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre, Antoine Watteau. Some of the artists are not well-known such as René Louis Maurice Béguyer de Chancourtois or Jean-Gaspard Heilmann. Several sheets are strangely classified under the title “traditionally ascribed to” which does not really mean much : either the author thinks it is by the artist – or by someone else – and he can, in case of doubt, add an interrogation mark or catalogue it as “attributed to”, or he thinks that the drawing should for the time being remain anonymous.
Collective work, Dessin français du musée de Darmstadt XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Gourcuff-Gradenigo, 2007, 575 p., ISBN : 978-2-35340-026-3.
In concluding this article, we would like to point out that the database corresponding to the catalogue for Italian and Spanish paintings in Nancy which we had mentioned in a previous text (see article in French on La Tribune de l’Art) is now available free of charge at this address.