Musée d'Orsay: Last Portrait

Last Portrait


Claude MonetCamille on her Death Bed© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Christian Jean
The purpose of the exhibition is to evoke a practice of the past: portraying a deceased person, on their deathbed of in their coffin. This "last portrait" - death mask, painting, drawing or photograph - remained in the narrow circle of relatives and friends, but, in the case of famous personalities, it could be widely circulated in public. This practice, extremely common in Western countries in the nineteenth century and until the first half of the twentieth century, is today fast disappearing, or at least it remains strictly within the boundaries of the private sphere.

The exhibition gathers together pieces that are difficult to comment as they are linked to codes and rites now foreign to contemporary culture. One can however attempt a multidisciplinary reading through associating famous and anonymous people and highlighting the crucial part these pictures played in the mourning process and the building of memory,, feeding in particular on recent developments in the history of mentalities. Beyond the taboos still encountered, these pictures also induce a contemporary resonance. Pieces by Monet, Seurat, Nadar and Man Ray will be shown, representing post mortem such famous people as Napoleon, Géricault, Gambetta, Hugo, Proust… down to Jean Cocteau and Edith Piaf.


General curator: Emmanuelle Héran, curator, Musée d'Orsay
Curator for photography: Joëlle Bolloch, head of research, Musée d'Orsay


48/14, La revue du musée d'Orsay, issue # 14, Spring 2002
Musée d'Orsay / Réunion des musées nationaux
€ 11

5 March - 26 May 2002
Musée d'Orsay

Galleries 67, 68 and 69

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