The Portrait of the Dedreux children by Géricault was not preempted by the Louvre

1. Théodore Géricault (1791-1824)
Portrait of Alfred and
Elisabeth Dedreux
, c. 1818
Oil on canvas - 99.2 x 79.4 cm
Ancient Yves Saint-Laurent and
Pierre Bergé collection
Sold 9 025 000 € with charges
Photo : Christie’s Paris

27/2/09 – Musées – France – We referred to it in our news item of 19/2/09 in speaking of the negotiations concerning the works in the Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé collection. In the last few weeks, the museum world had been commenting behind the scenes on Bergé’s attempts to persuade Nicolas Sarkozy to avoid issuing a listing as “trésor national” of any of the items, which would have given museums three years to raise the necessary funds and put out a call for patrons. Pierre Bergé never takes no for an answer and, lucky coincidence, none of the lots in what was called, in a somewhat exaggerated way, the auction of the century (the 21st has barely gotten underway…) was banned temporarily for export. This would not have in any way affected the owner as it is now well known that national treasures are generally acquired by museums at the highest price.

True, many of the objects had entered France less than 50 years ago, automatically eliminating them from the listing. But this was not the case for the Portrait of Alfred and Elisabeth Dedreux by Géricault (ill. 1), which has always been in this country. This difficult and unsettling painting is an authentic masterpiece which, under any other circumstances, would have been listed as a national treasure. The Louvre is currently, and with great difficulty, in the process of purchasing the Portrait of Count Molé (see news item of 1/2/09) and could not realistically compete with the market. The French government would have had to make an exceptional grant for it to do so.
Did Pierre Bergé’s donation of a Goya painting (see news item of 1/10/08) in rather problematic condition, not immediately visible in photographs, as well as a beautiful Burne-Jones tapestry (see news item of 23/2/09) justify the loss, most likely definitive, of the Géricault canvas ? We venture to question it openly. Despite the fine purchase of the Chirico work by Beaubourg, the time, painfully short-lived, during which French museums could rival major international institutions on the art market, seems to be over and done with.

2. Portrait box of Louis XIV, c. 1689
Miniature by Jean
Petitot (1607-1691)
H. 7.2 cm
Paris, Musée du
Photo : Christie’s Paris

On 24 February, at the Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé auction, the Département des Objets d’Art at the Louvre preempted for 400,000€ (without charges) and thanks to the Amis du Louvre, a portrait box of Louis XIV, with a miniature by Jean Petitot (ill. 2).

Version française

Didier Rykner, vendredi 27 février 2009

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