Two Pre-Emptions for the Petit Palais and for the BnF

1. Charles Girault (1851-1932)
View in Perspective of the Palaces on the Champs Elysées :
a Project for the Exposition Universelle of 1900
, 1896
Black Pencil, Pen, Black Ink, Watercolor,
White Gouache Heightenings - 74 x 104 cm
Paris, Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : SVV Tajan

26/11/12 - Acquisitions - Paris, Petit Palais and Bibliothèque nationale de France - The Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, pre-empted an important drawing by Charles Girault (ill. 1) representing a View in Perspective of the Palaces on the Champs Elysées, a project for the Exposition Universelle of 1900, (for 6,000€ before charges) at the drawing auction held by Tajan on 23 November 2012 at the Hôtel Drouot [1]. This large sheet (74 x 104 cm.) is dated 4 July 1896, the year in which the contest for the construction of the Petit Palais des Beaux-Arts and the Grand Palais des Beaux-Arts was held. The two buildings were designed to welcome the Exposition Universelle.
Charles Girault won the commission for the Petit Palais which as of 1902 became the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, while three other architects (Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet and Albert Thomas) shared the design project for the Grand Palais whose construction was coordinated by Girault.

The project shows the Petit Palais practically in its finished state, whereas the Grand Palais, though its general form is that of the monument, underwent extensive changes later incorporating many of the different proposals.
Awarded the Prix de Rome in 1880, Charles Girault was noted by the Belgian king, Léopold, thanks to the construction of the Petit Palais and thus was chosen to design several buildings in Brussels (the Arcades of the Bicentennial...) or nearby (the Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale in Tervuren). He is also the architect of the crypt at the Institut Pasteur where Luc-Olivier Merson produced some mosaics for which a cartoon was acquired in 2009 by the Parisian museum. We will discuss an upcoming event concerning Charles Girault and the Petit Palais again in a few days.

2. Thomas de Leu (1560-1612)
after François Quesnel (1543-1619)
(or François Quesnel ?)
The Coronation of Louis XIII
Pen, Black Ink, Grey and Brown Wash - 21.5 X 28.5 cm
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Photo : SVV Tajan

3. Thomas de Leu (1560-1612)
after François Quesnel (1543-1619)
The Coronation of Louis XIII
Engraving - 25.5 X 30.5 cm
Paris, Archives nationales
Photo : Archives nationales

At this same auction, the Bibliothèque nationale de France pre-empted (for 15,000€ before charges) a drawing by Thomas de Leu representing The Coronation of Louis XIII (ill. 2). Although the attribution is acknowledged to be by this engraver, we find it might be possible this could be in fact a drawing by François Quesnel. The sales catalogue entry states that it is the same subject, with slight variations, as an engraving by Thomas de Leu (ill. 3) after a lost painting by François Quesnel (the letter indicates Quesnel pinxit). The style of this drawing is however very close to that of François Quesnel as seen in a drawing at the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts representing The Birth, Baptism and Education of a Saint [2]. This is therefore either a preparatory study by François Quesnel for the painting, or else a repetition by Thomas de Leu after a unused sketch for this same painting (we should point out that the sheet shows traces of a stylus for reproducing).

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 28 novembre 2012


Rémi Mathis, curator at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, confirmed to us via Twitter that he also thought this drawing was by François Quesnel.


[1] We would like to thank Charles de Villeneuve de Janti for informing us about this pre-emption.

[2] See the exhibition catalogue of Le Dessin en France au XVIe siècle, ENSBA, where Quesnel’s drawing is reproduced as number 69 and where the engraving by Thomas de Leu is also illustrated.

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