Italy was an essential stopover on the Grand Tour, the journey lasting two or three years introduced by the English at the end of the 16th century. A period in Rome became a goal in itself. The elite met up with each other as they travelled through Europe, completing their education. These cultivated, fashionable young people were soon followed by artists – and cultural tourism was born! Painters took over various districts of the Eternal City, and explored the surrounding countryside, enchanted by the gardens at Tivoli and the ruins they happened upon during their wanderings. The beauty of antique art also made a lasting impression on them, and they honed their pens copying its magnificent marbles. It took until 1776 for the many Frenchmen in the city to obtain permission to go to other places as well as Rome and Naples. The Marquis de Vandières – the future Marquis de Marigny and Director of the Bâtiments du Roi – was sent to Italy in 1749 by his powerful sister, the Marquise de Pompadour, in order (as she said) "to acquire the requisite knowledge to serve a great King fittingly, in managing the Monuments needed to immortalise the glory of his reign."
He remained there for two years. Accompanied by Soufflot (the architect of the future Paris Pantheon) and the engraver Cochin, he met the painter Joseph Vernet, who had been living in Rome with his family since 1734 and had earned a glowing reputation. The two men developed a close relationship through discussions about commissions, and frequently dined together. Meanwhile, the Abbé de Saint-Non visited Rome with Hubert Robert and Jean-Honoré Fragonard in 1760, and the German landscape painter Jakob Philippe Hackert became friends with Goethe in Naples. Intellectual emulation was widespread. (The Musée des Beaux-arts in Caen paid tribute to these inquiring travellers in an exhibition entitled "For the love of art: French 18th-century artists and collectors "in February-April 2012). As a result, the face of European art was changed forever, in a positive way, as their quest for rebirth led artists to introduce a new aesthetic into art – including painting, sculpture and architecture. Then the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered: another important moment. Italy seemed to have an endless supply of hidden treasures. With the founding of the Académie de France in Rome in 1666, after the creation of the Prix de Rome in 1663, the Eternal City became an essential stage in the education of all serious young French artists.
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When dealers and institutions get together, divorce is not inevitable. Sometimes they even hit it off famously, like the Salon du Dessin which has been enjoying a vibrant love affair with museums for many years. Since 2011, all its guests have been public collections. In 2007 the first at the fair, the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs, exhibited some drawings by Charles de Wailly for the dressing room of Mademoiselle Contat. This year, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is presenting a few masterpieces from its little-known collection of architectural drawings, one of the oldest in the world. As we also know, the Semaine du Dessin has been bringing a fine selection of museums together around the speciality since 2000, and in 2015, the Centre Pompidou, Orsay, the Louvre, the Fondation Custodia and thirteen other institutions will be opening part of their graphic departments to the public. We can also see signs of perfect harmony in the fair's "Rencontres Internationales", introduced in 2006. These talks, open to visitors, are presented by curators and art historians.
It often happens that the specialist's passion coincides with the collector's, as with Pierre-Marc Richard:
a figure well-known to photography lovers.
An eloquent expert generous with his advice, he is discreet to the point of secrecy about the discoveries he has amassed over forty-odd years. These were partly revealed in 2011 during the sale of his collection at Drouot by the Beaussant-Lefevre auction house: a first section that garnered €1,433,878, confirming the rude health of primitive photography. On 25 March, the same auction house (this time assisted by expert Philippe Jacquier) is offering the second section, which highlights a number of anonymous practitioners as well as the top names.
The Teotihuacan culture of Guerrero was represented in the sale of a collection by this statue in serpentine, dating from between 350 and 950. Estimated at €6,000/€8,000, it finally went for €21,243. Teotihuacan was the largest city in pre-Columbian America. Located close to modern-day Mexico, it was probably built in 300 BC, and reached its apogee in around 450 AD before declining in the 6th century, perhaps because climatic changes affected the food resources. It was long thought that the city had been attacked in the 7th or 8th century, but it is more likely that it fell victim to civilian riots.
For the second year running, the Salon du Dessin is providing a chance to admire and study architectural drawing, a speciality within a speciality. After the Nancy Musée des Beaux-arts, which presented a selection from its graphic department last year, including works from the Thuillier donation, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is responding to the invitation by exhibiting forty-odd extraordinary drawings from little-known sources. We talk to Sylvie Aubenas, director of the Print and Photography Department, Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée, its librarian, and Marc Le Cœur, art historian and the curator of the exhibition.
Olivier Simmat, advisor to the President and Director
of Sponsorship and International Relations for the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l'Orangerie, receives us in his Paris office. Between flights, he looks back over a programme of unfailingly successful events, involving three or four exhibitions each year. These act as the museum's extra-mural flagship, and their profits are finally making it possible to restore Gustave Courbet's famous "Atelier".
To be there or not to be there! That is the question that gnaws at the top international galleries at the approach of TEFAF, the great European antiques ritual where you absolutely have to be to obtain the blessing of collectors. Here, the potential buyer is king, and everything is done to ensure guaranteed top quality, as witness the famous vetting process with its commission of 167 experts, who go over every selected object with a fine tooth comb!
And France has a lot to crow about, with an enviable position as the second best-represented nation after the UK
Italy was an essential stopover on the Grand Tour, the journey lasting two or three years introduced by the English at the end of the 16th century. A period in Rome became a goal in itself. The elite met up with each other as they travelled through Europe, completing their education. These cultivated, fashionable young people were soon followed by artists – and cultural tourism was born! Painters took over various districts of the Eternal City, and explored the surrounding countryside…
March 2015 Edition
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