In a large museum, changes are orchestrated by the movement of artworks. With new displays, recent acquisitions, returning loans, restorations, new combinations and deposits, small adjustments or major transformations, the presentation of the collections is continually evolving. On this page you will find regularly updated information on the principal changes in the Musée d'Orsay galleries, and on new discoveries to be made.
In her will, Lucie Kléné, the adopted daughter of Jos and Lucie Hessel - friends and patrons of Vuillard - bequeathed a painting of choice to the Musée d’Orsay from a selection of eight works by Bonnard and Vuillard from her inherited collection. The Chairman, Guy Cogeval, chose an exceptional painting by Vuillard: Le déjeuner en famille [Family Lunch] also known as Le Déjeuner Hessel [The Hessel Lunch].
The Hessel Lunch will be joining the paintings displayed in room 10 and will supplement the largest French collection of Vuillard’s works, following the announcement of the Hays donation and ahead of the presentation of the entire Zeineb and Jean-Pierre Marcie-Rivière collection.
This painting is exceptional in more than one way, through its autobiographical subject, its composition and its characteristic workmanship of Vuillard’s Nabis period. The scene depicts the painter’s close family, whom he constantly represented in his works throughout the 1890s.
In the centre of the painting is the figure of the artist’s mother, to the right his sister Marie holding her daughter Annette in her arms. Opposite them sits Marie’s husband and the baby’s father, the painter Ker-Xavier Roussel who is shown absorbed in his newspaper.
The panoramic view of The Hessel Family at Table allows the eye to move within the composition and revel in the details. Vuillard immerses the viewer in the vibrations of colours while presenting a meticulously geometric composition.
His handling of the space is also sophisticated, with an opposition between the enclosed room and the opening created by the paintings hung on the walls. These paintings, hung in white or natural wood frames, open up new perspectives through a mise en abyme of painting within a painting. The painting in the centre, above the artist’s mother, could be an unmarked street scene by Bonnard, while the one on the right, representing a family meal, could also be by Bonnard.
Now on display Room 10.
A major restoration has been made in 2015 on Cabanel’s paintingThe Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta.
The irregular and dirty layer of varnish that covered the painting had previously been selectively reduced privileging the central scene. The latest restoration consisted in thinning the remaining layers of varnish, ameliorate the disaccorded repaints and completing missing parts.
These interventions have alllowed a better reading of this true story that inspired Dante with one of the circles of Inferno in his Divine comedy. Regularising the layer of varnish not only restitutes the pictorial space with the proper succession of plans but also the somptuous colours of the composition.
The restored painting is now to be seen on the ground floor of the Musée d’Orsay
It was the world’s leading contemporary art museum, with prestige and influence to match, and many artists - French only until 1861, when the intake was gradually broadened to include foreigners - dreamed of seeing their work exhibited there. Indeed, acceptance by the Luxembourg allowed them to hope that they might even find a posthumous place in the artists’ true pantheon - the Louvre.