The Houdon Portrait by Marie-Gabrielle Capet Is Indeed from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Caen


25/01/12 - Rediscovery - Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts - The miniature painting representing Houdon sculpting Voltaire’s bust by Marie-Gabrielle Capet, and which the Service des musées de France had demanded be withdrawn from the auction (see news item of 24/1/12), was finally removed for conservation reasons.


1. Marie-Gabrielle Capet (1761-1818)
Portrait of Houdon Working on
the Bust of Voltaire
, 1801
Miniature - 15 x 12.5 cm (about)
Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts (lost)
Photo : Louis Réau

2. Marie-Gabrielle Capet (1761-1818)
Portrait of Houdon Working on
the Bust of Voltaire
, 1801
Miniature - 15 x 12.5 cm (about)
Resurfaced at the Hôtel Drouot auction house
in Paris on 23 January 2012
Photo : D. R.


We can now confirm that this is, without any possible doubt, the work stolen in the first half of the 20th century from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Caen, and well-known thanks to various publications. The portrait which resurfaced at the Hôtel Drouot auction house in Paris on 23 January reveals the same damages as the one which had disappeared, as shown by the photograph of the lost work published in 1934 by Count Doria in his catalogue raisonné of Marie-Gabrielle Capet’s work [1]. The two, identical, vertical tears [2], on the left above Voltaire’s bust and on the lower right almost halfway up the canvas, are very visible in the two pictures (ill. 1 and 2).

This proves - although we were already aware of it and mentioned it in our previous article - that the measurements cannot constitute positive proof in identifying an art object with absolute certainty as these are often approximate.
This masterpiece should now return very shortly to the Normandy museum as a welcome, and unexpected, addition to its collections fortunately recovered against all odds.

Version française


Didier Rykner, jeudi 26 janvier 2012


Notes

[1] Arnaud Doria, Gabrielle Capet, 1934, fig. 17.

[2] We publish here a different photograph from the one in the news item of 24 January, where the tears on the portrait which resurfaced at Drouot are much more visible.



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