Musée d'Orsay: Restoration of The Women of Gaul by Glaize

Restoration of The Women of Gaul by Glaize

To celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, the Musée d’Orsay has begun the restoration of a number of the works in its collections that were not put on display in the museum galleries when it opened in 1986. These restorations are part of its policy on the preventive conservation of the artworks, one of the museum’s fundamental missions.
This is the case of several large and medium sized Academic paintings in particular, which will be on view to the public once again while they undergo restoration or when they are hung in the renovated galleries in 2018.

Restoration of "The Women of Gaul" (1851) by Auguste Glaize

The Women of Gaul. An episode during the Roman invasion of Gaul was exhibited at the 1852 Salon, where it was displayed high up, as in a church.
Purchased by the State as a commission on 4 January 1853 for 6,000 francs, it was immediately sent to the Musée de l’Hôtel de Ville in Autun for storage.
The Musée d’Orsay recovered the painting in 1982, but due to its poor condition – the canvas had been left rolled up in the attic of the Musée d’Autun – it could not be put on display.
See Work in Focus.

The restoration launched in 2016 will rescue a heritage treasure and reveal a painting that was little known and yet emblematic of Napoleon III’s interest in the history of the origins of the French nation.


Auguste GlaizeThe Women of Gaul. An episode during the Roman invasion of Gaul© Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

The importance of restoration

The essential quality of this exceptional painting had been almost lost as its original colours had disappeared under the thick layers of varnish added in the 19th century. Over time, the varnishes have yellowed or become opaque (mould), resulting in the somewhat unappealing look of the painting that one sees in the photograph today with all the colours merging into a blend of sepia, brown and yellow.

Auguste Glaize The Women of Gaul (preparatory version)© DR
But this will make the planned restoration all the more spectacular as it will reveal the brilliance of each colour: the characters, their expressions, the drapery, the flesh, the whites, the sky, the landscape of Gergovia and the battle scene in the background will reappear in all their glory.

A projection of a small preparatory version in the Musée d'Autun visualises, in real cinemascope, the colours of the painting after restoration.

Stages of restoration

Both the artwork’s support and its paint layer will be restored, and it will be given an appropriate frame.

- structural repair of the painting, correcting distortions and tears.
The treatment of tears requires the canvas to be detached and then re-tensioned on the stretcher.

- rin-depth restoration, under the varnish, of the painting’s paint layer.

- production of a new moulded frame in Virginia Tulip or Abachi wood, finished and lacquered in black "sepia".

After restoration, this spectacular painting will be displayed in the large paintings gallery where it will raise the profile of works painted around 1850. It will illustrate the power and strength of history painting, and particularly how this was used to bolster French national identity.

This initiative is supported by a restoration fund sponsored by Crédit Agricole Ile de France, Great Patron of the Musée d'Orsay.

Glass enclosure built with the generous support of:

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