The Tribulations of the Jacques Thuillier Donation to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy

Robert van Vorst (1597-1636)
after Anton van Dyck (1599-1641)
Portrait of Simon Vouet
Etching - 23.5 x 17.4 cm
Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts
(Jacques Thuillier Donation)
Photo : Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts

4/4/12 - Acquisitions - Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts - Jacques Thuillier’s generosity towards the museums in Lorraine is well known. The anonymous character of the donations to the Musée départemental in Vic-sur-Seille and the Beaux-Arts in Nancy was very relative, as almost everyone was perfectly aware of the identity behind this benificient patron. This anonymity has now been officially lifted by his brother Guy.

A less well-known fact is that the thousands of engravings and drawings donated to Nancy were not all turned over right away to this establishment. Although the donation took immediate effect and with no reservation of beneficial ownership, it had been decided officially that Jacques Thuillier would send the sheets to their new home only after he had mounted and annotated them. So, although thousands of works started arriving at the museum in 1999, a great number were still at their donor’s and continued to be sent progressively, as he proceeded with the work according to his wishes. Unfortunately, over the past few years, his age and failing health prevented him from pursuing the task he had set for himself and an impressive quantity of unmounted and non-inventoried engravings and drawings still lay dormant in his Parisian apartment or his residence in Nevers.
Thousands more sheets have thus recently joined the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, and a last batch should be arriving soon. What is really fascinating here is that no one really knows anything about these works. There is no inventory or list. No one even knows their exact number. Since 1999, 3000 drawings and 7000 engravings (plus 180 albums of engravings) had been mounted and inventoried, many of which are visible on the Joconde database. Since early 2012, 50 engraving albums and 2000 sheets have joined the museum (the ratio of drawings/engravings has not yet been established) and there will probably be hundreds, even thousands, of others in the near future.

This autumn, the Musée des Beaux-Arts will pay tribute to Jacques Thuillier by organizing a hang of works, based on the inventoried holdings, tied to 17th century paintings in Parisian churches. This will be one of several events accompanying an exhibiton on the theme which is to take place at the Musée Carnavalet in Paris.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 5 avril 2012

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