The future of the chapel at the old Nevers hospital not clear

1. Altarpiece and choir screen of the chapel
Photo : All rights reserved

11/9/09 – Heritage – Nevers, old hospital – The sale of old buildings housing hospitals makes this type of heritage among the most threatened in France. Even the protection of Monuments Historiques is sometimes not enough to save them, especially for those concerning objects [1].

The latest example is provided by the old hospital in Nevers. Entirely listed under the supplementary inventory of the Monuments Historiques, it held several elements of listed furniture in its chapel : a choir screen (ill. 1), an 18th century sculpted group (Virgin of Pity with Two Holy Women), an Assumption from the 17th century French school and a painting by Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre (ill. 2), inlaid within an altarpiece especially created for it in the early 19th century. Almost entirely intact in 1999 as shown in a photograph we saw, this painting today reveals a long rip in the lower section (ill. 2).

2. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre (1714-1789)
The Finding of the True Cross, 1744
Oil on canvas - 286 x 208 cm
Nevers, chapel of the old Nevers hospital
Photo : All rights reserved

The hospital was recently sold to the real estate developing firm, Eiffage which wishes to transform it into a shopping and office building, a project which we hope will not distort it. The future of the furnishings, notably the Pierre painting, however remains uncertain. The work was removed by the offices of the Monuments Historiques and placed in a secure location, while awaiting a possible restoration. It would be unthinkable that these listed objects not return eventually to the chapel. The altarpiece surrounding the Pierre painting – which by the way is not protected – was custom designed for the work when the canvas arrived in Nevers under the Empire period [2].

It is obviously difficult to use this building for something else and Eiffage wishes to turn it over to the city of Nevers as mentioned in the purchase deed. When we asked City Hall if they were indeed interested in such a transaction, they did not provide any answer.

Version française

Didier Rykner, vendredi 11 septembre 2009


[1] See for example the Hôpital de Vincennes on which we will soon provide more information.

[2] This work was painted for the church of Sainte-Croix in Lyon before being seized probably during the Revolution, as explained in the catalogue on Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre by Olivier Aaron and Nicolas Lesur, soon to appear at Arthéna ed. We would like to thank Nicolas Lesur for the information and the photographs he shared with us.

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