New Acquisitions

Main acquisitions by the Musée d'Orsay in 2018

Paul Gauguin, vase "Atahualpa"

Paul GauguinVase Atahualpa© Christie's / DR
On 2 October 2018, the Musée d’Orsay acquired one of Gauguin’s strangest, yet most emblematic, vases at a London auction.

Gauguin was devoted to various disciplines, including pottery. From 1886 onwards, he made stoneware ‘ceramic sculptures’, an uncommon, entirely new art.
This flower vase is known as Atahualpa. It was the critic Félix Fénéon who underlined the tragic dimension of this “Atahualpa dispossessed, his mouth torn into a chasm” during a Parisian gallery exhibition that displayed several of Gauguin’s works in the winter of 1887-1888.

By alluding to the last Inca Emperor, assassinated by Pizarro in 1532, the writer was doubtless referring to Gauguin’s South American origins and to the models who inspired him.
Indeed, the artist drew on diverse, often unpretentious, sources – ranging from Japanese and pre-Columbian Mexican vases to vernacular European ceramics – to produce unique, unsettling works.

The peculiarity of the vase, which represents a human bust, resides in a removed skullcap, replaced by a gaping hole. The space left behind is all the more troubling as a surprising smile contrasts with the brutality of this disappearance.
The attire, decorated with butterflies, sharpens this disparity and introduces a comical, even grotesque, aspect.

Paul GauguinVase Atahualpa© Christie's / DR
Gauguin again expresses his attraction to contrasts : the broad male face’s thick goatee and discreet, engraved tuft of hair are masculine traits, but the bust also features a dimple alongside a close-fitting tunic dotted with butterflies, both feminine, youthful characteristics. Lastly, a sexual connotation in the main aperture cannot be denied: it recalls female genitals, which we find in a work produced several years later, on the back of the famous Oviri.

The vase’s strangeness reaches its height on the reverse side: Gauguin created a hybrid being with enormous ears, masterly exploring metamorphosis and polysemy of shapes.

Unique in Gauguin’s oeuvre, this vase has become iconic. Unusual and radical, it delightfully supplements the already rich collection of seven ceramics at the Musée d’Orsay and provides a fascinating counterpoint to the work Anthropomorphic Pot, a self-portrait vase crafted a year earlier.

Johan Coenraad Altorf, Bench

Johan Coenraad Altorf Bench© DR - Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Johan Coenraad Altorf, the son of a carpenter, learned to work with wood from a very early age, and later enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague in 1897. He met Johan Thorn Prikker who introduced him to Symbolism and Belgian Art Nouveau, and in particular to the work of the artists of Les XX, a group to which J. Thorn Prikker belonged. Through Prikker he was also able to join the DutchArts & Crafts circle.
At the turn of the century, Altorf turned to the applied arts, focusing on furniture and architectural decoration. He was acclaimed when he presented his works at the International Exhibition in The Hague in 1901, and at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts in Turin in 1902.
Later, from 1910 on, he specialised in producing sculptures to adorn modern buildings in The Hague. Like many artists from this town, he combined knowledge of the Dutch tradition with Belgian and British influences.

This bench is a beautiful example of Altorf’s work. The simple, clearly defined if somewhat rigid structure of the bench is softened with inlays of ebony and ivory, which give the work a more refined aspect.
This contrast between a traditional rustic material and more precious materials is a typical feature of Dutch Art Nouveau, as is the rigorous structure of the piece, which is reminiscent of H. P. Berlage’s approach.

The animal inspiration is not only typical of the artist, but also of the Dutch Arts & Crafts: K. de Graaff for furniture, J. von Hoytema for illustration, J. Mendes Da Costa for sculpture.
It appears here both in the central relief, consisting of a bird motif framed by the rectangular form of the panel, and on the armrests, each decorated with an elongated and stylised snail coming out of its shell, and a rabbit head at the end.

Finally, at the top of the two lateral uprights we find a carved ebony monkey, which heralds Altorf’s career in producing architectural animal sculptures.
These decorative principles recall the mirror acquired by the Musée d’Orsay in 2014, which is part of the same collection.

Piet Mondrian, “Haystacks III”

Piet MondrianHaystacks III© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Most likely produced between 1908 and 1909, probably in Zelande, a rural and coastal province of the Netherlands, this work by Mondrian corresponds to a crucial period in the artist’s life, who at the time subscribed to theosophical theories.
In the first years of his career, Mondrian followed the stylistic development of late 19th - early 20th century painting. First Naturalist and Academic, he drew his inspiration from Dutch tradition and produced melancholic landscapes in blue and grey tones.
As of 1904, his painting began to change and made way for interior scenes using flat areas of colour. He gradually turned to Fauvism, then Divisionism, while harbouring a passion for Van Gogh’s Expressionism.

It was not what he painted that changed during this transition period, but rather the way he painted. Mondrian discovered his own style, leaving behind “natural colour” in favour of “pure colour”.
He questioned motif, which became a pretext for his experiments with composition and colour, a vessel to express the spirituality of forms.

Although Mondrian presumably studied motif during one of his visits to Zelande and observed the fluctuations in light, the intense palette and the emphasis placed on the lines reveal an artistic agenda that leans more towards Symbolism than Impressionism.
The painter produced several series between 1908 and 1912. Haystacks III and its two counterparts (Haystacks I, unknown location, and Haystacks II, Sidney Janis Familly) could be considered as his first cycle.

This crucial work in Mondrain’s career testifies to his gradual shift to abstraction. It emphasises the importance of international Symbolism and theosophical theories in the movement towards pictorial abstraction.

Edouard Manet, “The Europe Bridge”

Edouard ManetThe Europe Bridge© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Caillebotte, Monet and Manet created images that became icons of Impressionism, a symbol of urban modernity in Paris, the capital of the 19th century: the Europe Bridge.
This drawing by Manet is part of his preparation for The Railway (Washington, National Gallery of Art), a pivotal painting in his career, begun in 1872 and exhibited at the 1874 Salon, his first major composition after the fall of the Empire and the Commune.

As of the early 1870s, the artist lived and worked in the vibrant Europe district of Paris.
He never tired of strolling through the busy streets and this territory transformed by Haussmann’s urban renovation, which he used as inspiration. He most likely produced this sketch in the garden behind 58 rue de Rome, the site of his friend Alphonse Hirsch’s studio.
In the background we can see the outlines of the façades on rue de Saint-Pétersbourg leading almost all the way to the artist’s studio at 4 rue de Saint-Pétersbourg, which he occupied as of 1872.

During the 1870s, Manet spent more time drawing outside, using a sketchbook kept in his pocket to quickly capture snapshot moments.
A few accents and pictograms are all that are required to characterise the décor and the actors of urban life.
The Railway combines a remarkably light stenographic drawing with a solid composition that makes daring use of empty spaces. “The eye, a hand....” as Mallarmé said, citing Manet and paying tribute to him in Divagations (1897): the limpid gaze of the artist sketching on the spot, the rapid movements of the hand that creates a composition, a rhythm, an atmosphere out of nothing.
The unfinished element reflects the fleeting and transitory nature, making Manet the illustrator of modern life, just as Baudelaire dreamed.

Paul Sérusier, “Tetrahedrons”

Paul SérusierTetrahedrons© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand-Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Littered with objects floating in space with no points of reference, the painting Tetrahedrons by Paul Sérusier is part of a series of mysterious paintings that bring Symbolism into the realms of Abstraction.
Something mystic is at work in this piece, which reflects the interest of the “Nabi with a shining beard” in the esotericism of colours and shapes. However, geometry remains above all a tool to render aesthetic needs in Sérusier’s work, in line with his philosophical continuity rather than based on a formal model.

This painting was produced around 1910, when Sérusier was teaching at the Académie Ranson (1908 to 1912). Indeed, his teachings, published in 1921 under the title The ABCs of painting, include a section on numbers and proportions that illustrates the inherent concept of Tetrahedrons which was to reformulate the close connections betweens human beings and the cosmos through Symbolist figuration.

Tetrahedrons, Golden Cylinder (Musée des Beaux-arts de Rennes) and Origins (private collection) form a unique set in Sérusier’s body of work.
During a rare public appearance in 1947 for the Palais Galliera retrospective, these three works were displayed as a triptych on the theme of the origins of life and the universe. Yet Tetrahedrons remains the most abstract of the three.
Unlike Golden Cylinder or Origins which preserve a sense of space in which a horizon can still be seen, the depth in Tetrahedrons is barely pronounced by an atmospheric perspective.

This painting emphasises Sérusier’s constant pictorial experiments in the use of abstract forms, long after Gauguin’s lessons at the Bois d’Amour and the Talisman of 1888.
It embodies a crucial yet little-known milestone in pictorial experimentation as it shifted to the abstract representation of shapes, thus providing a different interpretation of the history of art in the early 20th century.

Jean-François Millet, “La Méridienne” [or Noonday Rest]

Jean-François Millet La Méridienne© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
This study, acquired thanks to the generosity of the Société des Amis des musées d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie (SAMO), is linked to the composition La Méridienne [or Noonday Rest], the final version of which has been lost and which depicts two peasants sleeping in the shadow of a haystack.
They are part of the cycle Four Times of the Day: Scenes of Rural Life, including Morning. Leaving for the Fields, Midday. The Siesta, Evening. The End of the Day and Night, drawings engraved by Jacques-Adrien Lavieille and published in 1860 then in L'Illustration in 1873.
Among the variations on this composition, the most well known is the 1866 pastel Noonday Rest (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts). his image has become iconic thanks to the famous painting by Van Gogh, The Siesta (1889-1890, Musée d'Orsay), which uses “another language, that of colours, to translate the impressions of light and dark into black and white”.

In the study for Midday, the emphasise is place on the sleeping man, rather than the woman, who is merely outlined and of whom the Musée d'Orsay already has a finished study.
Not only are representation of sleeping men much rarer than “sleeping beauties”, but this contemporary sleeper, a labourer, moves away from the tradition of sleeping figures placed in a narrative context that make reference to mythology (The Sleep of Endymion, Psyche and the Sleeping Cupid), the Bible (Jacob’s Dream, Ruth and Boaz), literature (Ossian’s Dream) and allegory (Genius of Eternal Sleep).

Millet used an expressive and synthetic line to realistically draw the sagging of the body, emphasised by the folds of the clothes; the legs splayed and feet turned outwards.

The sleeping peasant is not gracious, his surrender to sleep is not a pretext to observe his beauty unbeknown to him. br />Millet succeeded in creating an image of a simple man lulled by the comfort of sleep, lying on the ground that he labours for a living and which revitalises him.

Frances Benjamin Johnston, collection of photographs

Frances Benjamin Johnston© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Thanks to the generosity of its American Friends (AFMO), the Musée d'Orsay has made a major acquisition in the field of feminine photography, a key focus of its policy of enriching its collections:
a set of works by the American Frances Benjamin Johnston, a figure undervalued in the history of photography despite being internationally recognised during her lifetime as a model professional practitioner.
The first female photojournalist at the end of the 19th century, a portraitist of the political spheres of the federal capital, Johnston also made a name for herself in the field of documentaries and architectural photography and as an advocate of female photographers.

The set of photographs that is now conserved at the museum comes almost entirely from the last residence of this exceptional figure. It includes works inspired by Pictorialism (1890s) as well as the “last photo ever taken of President McKinley”.
Two significant subsets are also associated with Johnston’s activities in terms of education: the 1899 photoreport on public schools in Washington (presented at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, it won the photographer a gold medal as well a promotion to the Order of Academic Palms on the one hand, and on the other the photoreport on the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama (1902 and 1906) as part of her work in establishments for Afro-Americans.
Two other groups of prints illustrate Johnston’s later specialisation in architecture: a photoreport on the headquarters Pan American Union in Washington (1908-1910); and numerous interior photos, primarily taken in high society residences in New York and the capital (circa 1909-1915).

This set is one of the most representative of Johnston’s long career, the only one of its kind to now be conserved in a non-American institution.
Its entry into the national collections is even more significant given the different facets of the photographer’s relationship to France: her training as a painter at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1883-1885; her numerous subsequent stays and her close connections with numerous French figures in the world of photography; the official recognition obtained at the 1900 Universal Exhibition; and her concurrent role as an ambassador for female American photographers in raising awareness in France of the accomplishments of feminine photography.

Ferdinand Hodler, Portrait of young Werner Miller (1899) and Portrait of Mathias Morhardt (1913)

Ferdinand HodlerPortrait of young Werner Miller© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
To mark the centenary of the death of the great Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler, the Musée d’Orsay has acquired two of his works: the portrait of young Werner Miller (1899) and that of Mathias Morhardt (1913), writer, poet, playwright and journalist.

The only French museum to conserve works by Hodler, Orsay already housed 3 of his paintings in its collections (The Woodcutter, Andey Peak and Madame Valentine Godé-Darel ill). But none of these evoked one of the major aspects of his work: the combination of a “realistic” portrait and the Symbolist composition found in the image of this boy sat on the grass.

Ferdinand HodlerPortrait of Mathias Morhardt © Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Other than its aesthetic qualities, the “Portrait of Mathias Morhardt” gives us an opportunity to touch on the intellectuals, the go-betweens of cultures, who contributed to the extraordinary vitality of European art in the late 19th century.

Thanks to these two acquisitions, the Musée d’Orsay is confirming its desire to enhance the presence of foreign avant-garde artists in its collections in order to improve our understanding of the 19th century.


Albert Dubois-Pillet, “Field and Factory” or “The Forges of Ivry”

Albert Dubois-PilletField and Factory© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
With the acquisition of this painting, an artwork whose localisation was unknown has now been identified. It is the Forges of Ivry represented in an astonishing framing where the industrial site is set against a field of crops.
The composition presents a summarised view of the transformations that were taking place in the Parisian suburbs at that time as a result of industrialisation. Here, the artist contrasts the warm shades of the crops with the cold blue tones of the factory buildings, with their smoking chimneys polluting the sky.

The landscape is constructed with a skilful assembly of similar or contrasting colours, and through opposing complementary shades. The elongated perspective with the winding shadow in the foreground accentuates the drama of the subject while giving a poetic character to this wide expanse devoid of any human or animal presence.

An army officer and self-taught painter, friend of Seurat, Signac, Luce and Pissarro (father and son), Dubois-Pillet was one of the founder members of the Salon of Independent Artists. He successfully absorbed the teachings of Seurat by adopting the optical contrast and pointillist technique of his revered master.
As his paintings rarely come up for sale, this acquisition has brought to light a work that has not been exhibited since 1888.

Eugène Grasset, Drawing for a Monumental Door

Eugène GrassetMonumental door© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
In 1890, Winnaretta Singer commissioned a monumental door from the sculptor Jean Carriès for the studio in her private residence on the rue Cortambert in Paris. The princess, an amateur artist, held famous soirées there.
Its design was exacting as it was technically hugely ambitious (glazed earthenware) and with complex iconography. Carriès died before finishing it. The elements are conserved in the musée du Petit-Palais along with a maquette, and the Musée d’Orsay has in its collections a frame containing thirteen photographs of the door being made, two of which include the artist.

It was as a friend and neighbour that Eugène Grasset was contacted by Carriès to produce the drawing of his project. It was remarkable for its spatial precision, achieved through an interplay of perspectives of pillars and surfaces, and its lavish iconography.
AnonymousJean Carriès working on the monumental door© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
It included a sort of medieval bestiary mixed in with female heads; in the centre is a statuette that might represent Winnaretta Singer and her passion for Wagner.

On the other hand, although quite different from the work that Carriès produced, this design, several preparatory sketches of which exist on tracing paper, fits perfectly into Grasset’s unusual decorative style (frontispiece “Ville imaginaire” [Imaginary City]: furniture for Charles Gillot). All three protagonists in fact shared a taste for the unusual.

Main acquisitions by the Musée d'Orsay in 2017

Camille Claudel: exceptional acquisitions

The Musée d'Orsay and Musée de l'Orangerie public establishment has exercised its right of first refusal to acquire two items at the sale "Camille Claudel: a treasure in heritage" that took place on Monday, 27 November, 2017, at Artcurial: Study II for Shâkountalâ (circa 1886) and Old woman's head, study for Maturity (circa 1890).

These exceptional acquisitions of works coming directly from the heirs of Camille Claudel's sister, Louise de Massary, allow the Musée d'Orsay, which has so far kept only two works by the artist (Maturity and Clotho's Torso), to enrich the presence of the artist. in the sculpture collections, notably thanks to the remarkable terracotta sketch for Shâkountalâ, one of her major works.

Camille ClaudelStudy II for "Shâkountalâ"© Artcurial / DR
Study II for Shâkountalâ (circa 1886)
Terracotta sketch
H. 21.50; W. 18.50; D. 11 cm

The work is inspired by a drama by the Hindu poet Kâlidâsa, translated into French in 1830 and adapted in ballet by Ernest Reyer on an argument of Théophile Gautier in 1858: following a curse, Prince Dushyuanta forgets his marriage with Shâkountalâ.
The embrace between the two characters illustrates the happy ending of the story, when Shâkountalâ and her husband meet at the Nirvanha.

First work of Claudel adopting a literary subject, Shâkountalâ was conceived during her years of passionate love with Rodin and includes important formal correspondences with the famous Kiss.
The particularly powerful modeling of this sketch, one of the few that remains, testifies, as closely as possible, to the technique of the artist.

Camille ClaudelOld woman's head, study for "Maturity"© Artcurial / DR
Old woman's head, study for Maturity (circa 1890)
H. 11; W. 9; D. 11 cm

This studio plaster is a study for the old woman of Maturity, of which the Musée d'Orsay owns the first bronze copy. The model is an old Italian, Marie Caira, who also posed for Jules Desbois and Auguste Rodin.

The acquisition of this work makes it possible to complete the collections of the Musée d'Orsay with a preparatory study that precedes both Clotho's Torso and Maturity, made from the same face. It belongs to the genesis of an emblematic work by Camille Claudel, in which the pain of breaking up with Rodin is expressed.
This woman with an emaciated face has often been interpreted as an allegory of Rodin's companion, as he was drifting away from the Imploring Woman.

During the sale held on 27 November 2017, twelve lots in total (eleven sculptures and a pastel) were acquired by six French museums. Public collections of Camille Claudel’s works have been immeasurably enriched with this latest ensemble, which will be gathered together at the Musée d'Orsay from 9 January to 11 February 2018, and put on display for the public in the Françoise Cachin Gallery, on level 2.

A set of color photographs by the Lumière brothers

Louis Lumière, Auguste Lumière and other members of the Lumière familyHenri Lumière© Musée d'Orsay, dist RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Louis Lumière, Auguste Lumière and other members of the Lumière family
69 autochromes (glass plates), between 1905 and 1935 (scenes of family life, individual and group portraits, tableaux vivants and landscapes)

Louis and Auguste Lumière, or workers at the Lumière factories
6 trichromatisms (glass plates), 1895-1898 (Composition depicting toys and painting reproductions)

The Musée d'Orsay is bringing together an exceptional set of works on the theme of the inventions of the Lumière brothers in the field of colour photography. It includes rare examples of their first trichromatism process on glass (patented in 1895), an unusual large format (18x13 cm), as well as a large number of experimental works.

This type of slide, with its high-quality rendering, was too complex to produce to allow for market development. Research led to the creation of the autochrome (patented in 1903), the first colour process distributed on an industrial scale and marketed in 1907.

Out of the 69 autochromes acquired, some plates are the result of artisanal production before the invention was made available to wealthy amateurs. This corpus gives us an insight into the private universe of the inventors of the cinematograph (1895). Images of staged family life, portraits, tableaux vivants and landscapes all attest to the influence of diverse pictorial models, at a time when the process was primarily seen as a long-awaited means to devoting oneself to a form of ‘machine’ Impressionism.

The perceptible aesthetic ambitions and achievements are magnified by the recurring choice of the large format, often going beyond the tradition of family photographs. It is these qualities that make this selection one of the most remarkable and vast ensembles known on the colour practices of the Lumière brothers.


Many of the works have never before been displayed, and remained in the hands of Henri’s heirs (1897-1971), the son of August Lumière, up until early 2017. Until now no autochromes resulting from this family production had been conserved in the national collections.

This acquisition is accompanied by a generous donation of 6 monochrome portraits of the Lumière Brothers and their father Antoine Lumière

Charles Nègre, "Young Chimney Sweep"

Charles NègreYoung Chimney Sweep© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Alexis Brandt
In the early 1850s, the painter Charles Nègre made a remarkable entrance into the growing world of Parisian photography, hailed by critics as the inventor of “genre photography” for his images of the ordinary people of Paris.

His series on chimney sweeps is one example of these topics that fuelled his painting and that inspired many of his contemporaries as an extension of prints since the 18th century and, beyond that, a Spanish and Nordic pictorial tradition dating back to the 17th century.

Although Murillo and Rembrandt naturally come to mind when one talks about photographed chimney sweeps, Nègre nonetheless surpasses the problems of genre and the picturesque.

Through the use of the optical system employed for his small, circular prints, the photographer sought to create “snapshots” before the invention of instant photography. This pioneering approach led to an equally pioneering project - that of representing the movement of walking through this new medium.

The reality of exposure times and the choice to prioritise sharpness, however, obliged him to turn to illusion: the three Chimney Sweeps Walking posed in the small version (société française de photographie), and thus in the larger version as well (musée Carnavalet).

The series also includes a shot of the group at rest (negative at the Musée d'Orsay), so that only the youngest worker had the honour of an individual portrait.


The picturesque aspect of the scene has been left out of the frame in order to emphasise the expressiveness of the silhouette, accentuated by the powerful contrasts of shadows, the geometric forms and the pared down decor which echo contemporary paintings by Daumier, a neighbour of Nègre on the Ile Saint-Louis.

Through the acquisition of the only known print of Young Chimney Sweep, an important milestone in the history of photography which has been pieced together in the various French collections.

James Tissot, Jardinière "Cave and body of water"

James TissotJardinière "Cave and body of water"© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Tissot left behind a large number of major and celebrated paintings including The Circle of the Rue Royale and the Portrait of the Marquis and Marchioness of Miramon and their children, conserved at Orsay. Although the artist is best known for his talents as a painter, which earned him a special place in the Franco-English context of his era, he was also at the forefront of decorative arts.

Having learnt to master the difficult enamel technique, he most likely sought the assistance of craftsmen to produce this jardinière (flower box). He seems to have been influenced by or drawn on the skills of founders such as Christofle and Barbedienne, unless he allowed himself to be guided by practicians working for Elkington, a firm that also produced Japanese bronzes made from enamel using the cloisonné technique, like those by Christofle.

What is certain is that the quality of the anonymous gilded bronze castings indicates the expertise of a very high-level professional.

In this specimen, the remarkable decors - view of a cave by the sea and a body of water in a garden - are depicted on both sides in two precisely outlined views through a window flanked by architectural consoles. On both sides, the curved ends that support the handles are designed to imitate a brick wall covered in plants.

The marine cave, evoking the romantic image of the wild yet hospitable nature, contrasts with the pond reflecting a colonnade depicted on the opposite side of the jardinière, a sophisticated vision in reference to the Parc Monceau in Paris and Tissot’s property in England. Like yin and yang, this contrast is a nod to Chinese culture, a great source of inspiration for the artist in the design of this spectacular object.

Gustave Moreau, "The Good Samaritan"

Gustave MoreauThe Good Samaritan© DR
Gustave Moreau painted the parable of the Good Samaritan - taken from the Gospel of St Luke - on several occasions throughout his career, focusing on different moments of the tale and a variety of compositions. This small oil panel was produced around 1865, a period during which the artist primarily drew his inspiration from mythological subjects, as can be seen by his submissions to the Salon.

This painting, with its precious workmanship and colouring, attaches equal importance to the characters portrayed with the eloquent strokes characteristic of the artist, and to the surrounding scenery.

The latter is composed of a tree with a gnarled trunk, rocks with cavities that bear a resemblance to those of Leonardo de Vinci, and a vast plain with a low horizon line that creates a feeling of distance despite the work’s small format. The detail of the donkey staring at a wake of vultures perched on the rocks to the right of the composition adds a picturesque note to the painting.


Gustave Moreau’s small format oils on wood were particularly valued by amateurs as of the 1860s, including Paul Tesse who was the first owner of the work, and Charles Hayem. The Musée d'Orsay notably houses a Calvary taken from the latter’s collection, the date and format of which are similar to those of the Good Samaritan.

Alexandre Cabanel, "Paradise Lost"

Alexandre CabanelParadise Lost© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
This work is the sole example of one of the rare 19th century decors produced by a French painter in Germany. In 1863, Maximilian II, King of Bavaria, commissioned Alexandre Cabanel to decorate the Maximilianeum palatial building in Munich with the biblical story of the original sin.

Emblematic of the enlightened policy of the Kingdom of Bavaria, this decor (lost during a bombing in 1945) is a unique production in the entirety of the career of Alexandre Cabanel, one of the greatest Academic painters of the second half of the 19th century, through both its composition and its dimensions.


The artist had previously represented the biblical tale as his dernier envoi - the final work he sent back to Paris from Rome as proof of his artistic accomplishments at the end of his 5-year stay - The Death of Moses (Dahesh Museum of Art, New York), in which the influence of the Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s The Vision of Ezekiel (Palazzo Pitti, Florence) can clearly be seen. Paradise Lost adopts the same references: Raphaël for the figure of God and Michelangelo (the tomb of Giuliano de' Medici in particular) for the figure of Adam.

By marking the nudity of Eve as the central feature, Cabanel creates a renewed vision of this biblical subject, reflecting the evolution of modern tendencies.

This acquisition is all the more important given that it is the first painting relating to the artist’s decorative activity conserved at the Musée d'Orsay (which has six other works by Alexandre Cabanel in its collections).

Jules Auguste Habert-Dys, jewellery box

Jules Auguste Habert-DysJewellery box© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
This luxurious jewellery box demonstrates Habert-Dys’ interest in illustration and the ‘arts of fire’, but also his master of gold and silver work, applied by his son-in-law Fernand Poisson.

Indeed, the motifs on the enamel plates are very similar to those published in his Caprices décoratifs, while the decorative splendour of the silver work heralds his spectacular creations like the famous vase Ronde de trois cigales depicting three grasshoppers (1905).


The Japanese influence can be clearly seen in the shape and function of the object, as well as in the decorative elements. The use of Macassar ebony is an ornament in itself; this choice allows the natural beauty of the material to radiate in true Japanese style as understood by the protagonists of Art Nouveau.

This is supplemented by the rich decor of the enamel plates in delicate colours with more intense bursts (the heart of the chrysanthemums and the leaf edges). The silver frame is also composed of plant-inspired decorations, in an abundant and structured style that follows the contours of the box.


The interior design is equally meticulous, with silver elements echoing the base of the enamel plates on the back and sides, decorated with the characteristic arabesques of the 1900s.


Mackay Hugh Baillie-Scott, Music Chest

Mackay Hugh Baillie-ScottMusic Chest© DR
The English architect Baillie Scott, an advocate of Arts and Crafts, was called upon to work for the Grand Duke Ludwig de Hesse in the artists' colony founded by the latter in Darmstadt in 1899. Baillie Scott’s works thus provide one of the fundamental and sustainable links between the English Arts and Crafts movement and the Germanic secession movements.

In 1905, Hans Bacmeister, director at the Dresden Opera house, commissioned a set of furniture from him, including this music cabinet as well as the two armchairs that were incorporated into the Musée d’Orsay collections in 2005.
This exceptional furniture set is one of the rare examples of the luxurious pieces designed by M-H. Baillie Scott, many of which disappeared during the War.

The music cabinet is representative of the exchanges established between the major Art Nouveau centres. Black furniture was favoured by creators of Arts and Crafts, as well as among artists with a penchant for rectilinear geometric shapes, emphasising the orthogonal architecture of the furniture as seen in works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Scotland and Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser in Vienna.
Here, the simplicity of the shape is the result of both a taste for orthogonality, a certain conception of ‘functionalism’ dictating a simple and clear structure, and its English heritage (the four exposed hinges on the cabinet doors).

The decorative dimension of the ring handles and the inlaid decor in the upper section are reminiscent of the graphic explorations of architects from Munich and those of Josef Maria Olbric who also stayed in Darmstadt.
The interior decoration on the inlaid doors, for its part, echoes the Venetian style with its geometric design and the use of precious materials.

Anders Zorn, "Figure for a fountain, II"

Anders ZornFigure for a fountain, II (Fontänefigure, II)© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Painter, renowned engraver and sculptor, Anders Zorn was one of the most well-known Swedish artists of the second half of the 19th century, a central figure of a modern and virtuoso international style that emerged at the turn of the century.
Sculpture was always a subject of fascination for the artist, and it was in this discipline that he enrolled in the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1875 in addition to his work on watercolour and painting. After moving to Paris between 1888 and 1896, he triumphed as a portrait painter, but kept his hand in with sculpture thanks to his friendship with Rodin.

Zorn’s sculptures are fully in keeping with an international naturalism, which he also applied to his work in the material of Swedish popular art, wood. Zorn explored all aspects of sculpture in his era, through portraits, decorative statuettes and public monuments, which sometimes exhibited French influences (Injalbert, Rodin) following his stay in Paris.

The Musée d’Orsay houses three paintings by Zorn: Fisherman at Saint Ives, acquired by the State in 1889, on loan to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Pau, Nude Woman Arranging Her Hair acquired for the Musées Nationaux in 1906, and the Portrait of Alfred Beurdeley, lgift of Marcel Beurdeley in 1979, but no sculptures.
The rare sculptures by Zorn up for public auction are in small format and are generally anecdotal. Fontänefigur, II (Figure for a fountain, II), a monumental female figure in true naturalism style, is the second version of two fountain motifs produced by Zorn between 1909 and 1911.

The acquisition of this large bronze represented a unique occasion to supplement the Nordic art collection in general, and the collection of European sculptures from the 1910s in particular.

Léon Augustin Lhermitte, "Around Les Halles"

Léon Augustin LhermitteAround Les Halles© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
The corpus of drawings and pastels produced by Léon Augustin Lhermitte, a prolific artist who practised drawing throughout his life, is estimated at over two thousand works. Educated at the Ecole Impériale de Dessin and in particular under Lecoq de Boisbaudran, who had developed an original teaching method based on memory, Lhermitte learnt to draw without a model, thus allowing him to compose at his own pace from the comfort of his studio, producing skilful large format pictures that acquired their own independence from his paintings.

Although he drew with charcoal, in classic style, as a means of preparing his oil paintings, he placed his large charcoals on sale: these magnificent drawings were popular with private amateur, such as Charles Hayem, an important collector of watercolours by Gustave Moreau and a donor to the Louvre. It is from his collection that Around Les Halles is taken. Charcoal “is Lhermitte’s preferred technique, with which he established his reputation”.

Around Les Halles is dated 1881, that is to say one year before the dazzling success of Paying the Harvesters, the painting that officialised Lhermitte’s fame. This drawing demonstrates the urban inspiration of an artist more commonly associated with the rural life he most often represented.
Although Lhermitte drew other market scenes, they were of provincial markets, which is what makes this drawing a rare iconography for the artist in his portrayal of the modern architecture that had become emblematic of Paris.

Thanks to the bold framing, Lhermitte guides the viewer to the heart of a street scene on the edges of the Belly of Paris immortalised by Zola in 1873. The approach to the iconography of Les Halles is original in that it is not the opulence of the market products that is depicted in the scene, but rather a flea market or bric-à-brac sale of art objects and paintings.
The main road is much less crowded and animated than in the painting Les Halles (Paris, Petit Palais) where fruit and vegetable sellers jostle one another in a lively atmosphere. Gone is the “picturesque clutter” of the painted version, replaced by a clear organisation shown through several outlines that converge at the vanishing point in the exact centre of the paper.

Amedeo Modigliani, "Portrait of Paul Guillaume, mid-thigh"

Amedeo ModiglianiPortrait of Paul Guillaume, mid-thigh© DR
Between 1915 and 1916, Modigliani produced four portraits of his patron. The first of these, conserved at the Musée de l'Orangerie, proclaims the special relationship between the art dealer and the artist in early 1915. Paul Guillaume, then aged just 23, posed for the painting in the apartment of Modigliani’s mistress, Beatrice Hastings.

Modigliani inscribed the art dealer’s name, as well as the humorous manifesto: Paul Guillaume, "Novo Pilota", new helmsman, in capital letters as common in advertisements and the canvases of his futuristic compatriots. Like a racing car driver or a aviation pioneer, he was depicted as taking over the helm of modern painting.
On a more personal note, Modigliani assigned the art dealer the role of artistic guide in his life: in the midst of war, at a time of great destitution, Paul Guillaume played the part of material and moral support.

Other than his painted portraits, Modigliani also produced several drawings of his art dealer and patron including the one acquired during the sale at the Ader auction house, directly related to the painted portrait.

The Portrait of Paul Guillaume, mid-thigh, with its clear lines, depicts the nonchalance of the model portrayed as an elegant young man, one hand on his collar. Although differing in its composition from the canvas conserved at the Orangerie, the inscription “NOVO PILOTA” in capital letters in the bottom left, topped by a cross in exactly the same place, establishes the link between the two. Although the drawing is not dated, these specific elements lead us to believe that the drawing was produced around the same time as the painting.

The acquisition of this work from the Paul Guillaume collection is a rare opportunity for the Musée de l’Orangerie as it has remained in the family of Domenica Walter, but also due to its close ties to the painted portrait already conserved at the Orangerie.

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