Hôtel Turgot retouché and exhibitions announcements

For the last two years some of the rooms in Hôtel Turgot have been temporarily inaccessible while renovation works were going on.

The electrical wiring and the fire safety system have been renewed throughout the building. The lighting has been replaced with a type of LED that resembles daylight. Recent technical developments have made it possible to conceal the light source discreetly in the ceiling so there is no longer any need to install unsightly hanging lamps, the curse of all old buildings that have been modernized in recent decades. Old chandeliers have been purchased to give each room an individual atmosphere in lighting as well as decoration. The existing ones have been restored, hung at the correct height and fitted with bulbs that approximate the light from a candle. The mezzanine floor installed in the nineteen-sixties in the director’s assistant’s room, which overlooks the courtyard, has been removed; its removal has returned the room to its original height, considerably improving the sense of space. The original eighteenth-century parquet floor discovered under the moquette carpet has been reinstated.

The grand salon now has the look of an Empire room, but in a Gustavian sense with Scandinavian accents and brilliant blue walls. The previously brightly-coloured columns, an early twentieth-century addition to the decor, have been painted in the same colour to give rhythm to the wall and reduce their visual impact.

© Philip Provily

The dining room panelling has been replaced with a solid oak panel with moulding that echoes the antique doors to the adjacent grand salon and vestibule. We believe these alterations to our accommodation and the decor will have a welcoming effect on our visitors and inspire the people who work there. The editorial staff of Elle Décoration were so enchanted by the result that they decided to devote a special feature to the Hôtel Turgot refurbishment in this year’s November edition.

© Philip Provily

Our Saturday guided tours resumed in September and visitors can sign up on our website—which was also updated recently and is where you found this newsletter. We hope you will find it easy to navigate. The site will soon become the portal through which to consult parts of the Fondation Custodia’s collection, initially, and eventually the whole collection.

The conservation workshop has been extended and renovated to today’s standards. We regularly welcome interns who want to become restorers of art on paper and from now on we will be able to do this in an ideal environment managed by conservator Corinne Letessier, who has been fully involved in the new layout and fittings. Areas that could not be used to best effect in the past because of built-in elements and inadequate technical facilities have now been opened up. Most importantly, daylight – incomparably the best light to work in – now enters the workshop in the basement.

Fondation Custodia employees, twenty-two of whom are permanent staff, repeatedly remark to one another how special it is that the wisdom and foresight of Frits and To Lugt-Klever, founders of the Fondation Custodia, have made it possible to undertake all these improvements and fulfil our mission with energy and drive. While the renovation work was going on, this feeling was expressed almost daily in the two buildings managed and used by the Fondation Custodia, two floors of which are rented to the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Atelier Néerlandais. The constructive board is a key factor in this, and we should like to take this opportunity to reiterate our gratitude to them.

The drills and hammers have not yet been completely silenced. Over the next few months there is still work to be done in some of the offices and on the fifth floor of Hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix, where a large part of the bookstack is situated and where we also need to address the heating, electricity and lighting and make further alterations. This will greatly improve the functioning of the library in the future, but there will not be a full service for the next few months. We are trying to solve this as flexibly as possible but would ask users to understand if certain publications and magazines cannot be viewed. The works will be completed at the end of the year.

© Yannick Pyanee

The courtyard paving will be replaced in 2019 and we will see how the drainage of water can be improved. It is marvellous to work in an historic and well-maintained environment, but it requires vigilance and constant care. We do all that we can to achieve this.

Oh yes, after four years the large, tomato-red gate on to rue de Lille, a racy accent in the predominantly grey, grey-blue and green street scene in the seventh arrondissement, has just been painted again. This is the gate that admits visitors to Waves of renewal, a magnificent exhibition of Japanese prints between 1900 and 1960.

Following the recently closed Georges Michel. Le Paysage sublime and the retrospective of American prints Pop to the present, Waves of renewal is the next link in an exhibition relay.

Henri Matisse, Dance (Composition No. I), 1909
Pen and black ink, watercolour, 221 × 320 mm
Pushkin Museum, Moscow
© Succession H. Matisse

In the spring of 2019 there will be a wide-ranging show titled Cinq cents ans de dessins de maîtres from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, featuring drawings that have rarely if ever been exhibited in the west, and in the summer there will be an exhibition devoted to Frans Hals’s large painted family portraits, Réunion de famille, followed by Willem Bastiaan Tholen (1860-1931), un peintre impressionniste néerlandais and a magnificent retrospective of prints, drawings and watercolours by the Swiss artist Gérard de Palézieux (1919-2012). It meant and means working with the Monastère de Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse, the British Museum in London and the Terra Foundation for American Art, Museum Nihon no hanga in Amsterdam, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio, the Musées royaux de Belgique and our friends in the Dordrechts Museum and Musée Jenisch in Vevey, Switzerland. The lines that connect us to all these partners ultimately converge at 121, rue de Lille, with the aim of showing our visitors what we believe in, to surprise them and to increase knowledge about what is exhibited. Keep following us, as well as the other institutions and museums that are always working for you on their permanent collections and exhibitions. Seeing art and knowing about artistic creations past and present satisfies our curiosity, is an essential enrichment of our lives and contributes to our happiness. This is what our founders believed and we are delighted to endorse it.

Ger Luijten
Director

Modern Japanese Prints

Waves of renewal

Exhibition from 6 October 2018 to 6 January 2019

To celebrate the Year of Japan in France, the Fondation Custodia presents an important retrospective exhibition of early twentieth-century Japanese prints.

Waves of renewal. Modern Japanese Prints 1900-1960 offers an exciting opportunity to discover, almost for the first time in France, the work of artists who bear witness to the twentieth-century modernisation of Japan. It explores the twin movements shin hanga and sōsaku hanga through more than two hundred prints, the work of about fifty artists.

According to Ger Luijten, director of the Fondation Custodia, “this exhibition will be an eye-opener for the French public, that is more familiar with traditional Japanese art. The subjects, techniques and graphic vocabulary of these works from the beginning of the XXth century will certainly give the visitor immense joy.”

The prints on show come from the collection built up by Elise Wessels over the past twenty-five years and will be donated to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam in a few years’ time.

Read more.

The exhibition catalogue is available in our bookshop or online:

Vagues de renouveau. Estampes japonaises modernes 1900-1960
Paris, Fondation Custodia, 2018
536 pp, ca. 400 colour illustrations , 27 × 19 cm, bound, in French
ISBN 978 90 78655 29 9
49,00 €

To order this book, please fill out the form below. You will receive an invoice by e-mail, including package and postage fees. Payments can be made by bank transfer.

 

Recent Acquisitions

Samuel Palmer (London 1805 – 1881 Newington)
View of Box Hill, Surrey, 1848
Oil on paper, laid down on cardboard. – 24,1 × 41,4 cm
2018-S.16
Martinus Rørbye (Drammen 1803 – 1848 Copenhagen)
Castello Caetani in Sermoneta, 1834
Oil on canvas. – 32,1 × 42,3 cm
2018-S.17
Camille Corot (Paris 1796 – 1875 Paris)
View of Fécamps from the Beach of Yport, 1871
Oil on cardboard. – 11,3 × 18,7 cm
2018-S.3
Camille Corot (Paris 1796 – 1875 Paris)
Sketch of a Landscape, 1874
Oil on panel. – 9,1 × 14,1 cm
2018-S.20
Charles Louis Mozin (Paris 1806 – 1862 Trouville-sur-Mer)
View of Le Crotoy, Picardie
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 33,6 × 51,5 cm
Gift Brigitte and Jacques Gairard, Lyons
2017-S.3
Eugène Isabey (Paris 1803 – 1886 Paris)
Le Fret in the Brest Harbour, c. 1850-51
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 25 × 46,3 cm
Gift Brigitte and Jacques Gairard, Lyons
2017-S.5
Johann Jakob Frey (Frascati 1813 – 1865 Basel)
Double Rainbow above Roman Ruins
Oil on canvas. – 20,9 × 30 cm
Gift Dineke and Gerhard Greidanus, Amsterdam
2017-S.26
Karl Beckmann (Berlin 1799 – 1859 Berlin)
View of the Old Harbour in Alanya, Turkey, 8 October 1843
Oil on canvas, laid down on cardboard. – 22,5 × 34,8 cm
2017-S.23
Gerard van Spaendonck (Tilburg 1746 – 1822 Paris)
A Garland with Roses and Wild Flowers, 1774
Watercolour over traces of graphite. – 317 × 216 mm
2018-T.24
Robert Léopold Leprince (Paris 1800 – 1847 Chartres)
Study of Trees
Oil on canvas. – 26 × 22,7 cm
Gift Catherine Sterling, Greece
2018-S.28
Giovanni Battista Bonacina (Milan 1620 – 1664 Rome)
Portrait of Salvator Rosa
Etching. – 282 × 206 mm
2017-P.2
Unknown engraver
Portrait of Franciscus van Schooten
Etching. – 142 × 114 mm
2017-P.9(115)
Jacob Houbraken (Dordrecht 1698 – 1780 Amsterdam), after Jan Maurits Quinkhard (Rees 1688 – 1772 Amsterdam)
Portrait of Jacob de Wit
Etching. – 156 × 100 mm
2017-P.9(147)
Johann Friedrich Arnold (? 1780? – 1809 Berlin), after Anton Graff (Winterthour 1736 – 1813 Dresden)
Portrait of Daniel Chodowiecki
Etching. – 331 × 250 mm
2017-P.9(162)
Mariano Fortuny Y Marsal (Reus 1838 – 1874 Rome)
Study of a Nude Man
Black chalk, brown wash, heightened with white gouache on beige paper. – 416 × 205 mm
2017-T.11
François Bonvin (Paris 1817 – 1887 Paris)
Woman Standing next to a Chair
Black chalk and white chalk on beige paper. – 366 × 232 mm
2018-T.39
Jacques Gamelin (Carcassonne 1738 – 1803 Carcassonne)
Nouveau recueil d’ostéologie et de myologie dessiné d’après nature, Toulouse (J. F. Desclassan), 1779
2017-OB.6
Jacques Gamelin (Carcassonne 1738 – 1803 Carcassonne)
Nouveau recueil d’ostéologie et de myologie dessiné d’après nature, Toulouse (J. F. Desclassan), 1779
2017-OB.6

An Addendum to the collection of portrait miniatures

The exhibition of portrait miniatures at the Fondation Custodia closed at the end of April this year. The specially-designed glass cases were emptied and the small portraits returned to the peace and quiet of the medal cabinet in Hôtel Turgot. This ground-breaking exhibition of our miniatures was organised to coincide with the publication of the catalogue raisonné of the collection. The catalogue could not however include the Portrait of a Draughtsman which arrived in the Frits Lugt collection soon after the book was published.

View of the exhibition Les Portraits en miniature from 27 January to 29 April 2018
© Philip Provily

Although neither the author of the miniature – likely a French artist active between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth – nor the subject of the portrait have been identified, the portrait fits perfectly into the general pattern of recent acquisitions by the Fondation Custodia: it illustrates the Fondation’s interest in portraits of artists. The young man wears an elegant top hat and carries a portfolio of studies and drawings under his arm. It is tempting to imagine him leaving his studio to visit one of his clients or his dealer. The miniature evokes the status of the artist in the nineteenth century, just as it is described in the many letters exchanged between personalities in the art world in the Frits Lugt collection.

Anonymous artist, French, Portrait of a Draughtsman, c. 1800
Oil on card, 9 mm (diameter)
inv. 2018-PM.1

On the back of the portrait can be read the name ‘Valpinçon’. This inscription may refer to Édouard Valpinçon (1807-1881), who gave his name to the Baigneuse painted by Ingres in 1808, owned by Valpinçon before the famous painting entered the Louvre. Valpinçon possessed a vast collection of paintings, drawings and engravings. He had inherited some of these from his godfather Louis Guénin (1772-1844) who collected old masters – mainly Dutch – as well as paintings by recognised artists of the period such as Girodet, Gérard, Descamps, Demarne, Vernet and also Drölling. The portrait here may correspond to number 383 in Louis Guénin’s estate inventory, described as ‘miniature portrait of a man’ painted by an anonymous artist.1

Maud Guichané

 

Portrait Miniatures in the Frits Lugt Collection
Catalogue raisonné
Karen Schaffers-Bodenhausen
Paris, Fondation Custodia, 2018
2 volumes (hardback) in a cassette, 27 × 19,5 cm
ISBN 978 1 912168 10 1
75,00 €

To order this book, please fill out the form below. You will receive an invoice by e-mail, including package and postage fees. Payments can be made by bank transfer.

1Anne Roquebert, ‘Édouard Valpinçon (1807-1881), collector of Ingres and some others…’, Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, 2004 (2005), pp. 253-273.

Concerning the reception of Rembrandt’s prints, or the intriguing portfolio in the Fondation Custodia

In 2017, the Fondation Custodia made an inventory of a group of artworks kept in a folder containing three hundred and twenty-two prints and four photomechanical reproductions.

Once this collection had been sorted, classified and analysed it became clear that what might have seemed at first glance to be a miscellaneous collection of prints, formed in fact a cohesive whole and offered a comprehensive overview of the reception of the prints of Rembrandt (1606-1669) in Europe, from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries.

Thus, as all the Dutch prints of the Golden Age are grouped together, the world of Rembrandt is revealed to our eyes: first Jan Lievens (1607-1674), his sidekick and rival, then Salomon Savery (1593/1594-1683), via the portraits of clergymen Jan Cornelis Sylvius and Cornelis Claesz Anslo, both close to Rembrandt and painted by him; finally, Salom Italia (1619-?), whose illustrations for the Piedra gloriosa by Menasseh ben Israël echo the ones made for the same volume by the artist himself.

Thomas More or The First Oriental Head, after Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1644-1647?
Engraving and etching, 213 × 190 mm

The seventeenth-century French prints from the group document in detail the myriad variations and nuances of the reception of Rembrandt. In fact, although his etchings were known and appreciated in artistic circles in France, they were construed more as part of a stylistic repertoire than as artistic productions. This can be said of François Langlois, known as Ciartres (1588-1647), who published prints after Rembrandt as early as the 1630s. He had no hesitation, moreover, in re-naming them, Rembrandt’s First Oriental Head becoming a Portrait of Thomas More engraved by Jérôme David (1605?-1670?). This was the complete reverse of the Enlightenment approach, when the figure of an artist considered to be untypical exercised real fascination, when endless attempts were made to discover the secrets of Rembrandt’s ‘magic’ – it defied definition. Faithfully following the principle that discovering the ductus of an artist allows one to understand him better, professional and amateur engravers poured out reproductions and pastiches with the aim of ‘getting their hands in’, to quote Caylus (1692-1765). The copies contained in this body of work by admirers (Anne-Claude-Philippe de Caylus, Claude-Henri Watelet (1718-1786)), as well as by professional engravers (Pierre Filloeul (1696-?), Heinrich Guttenberg (1749-1818)) testify to the fact that, one hundred years after his death, Rembrandt was still revered.

One consequence of this ever-growing curiosity about his work was that the value of Rembrandt’s prints increased astronomically during the 1770s. The less expensive English copies enjoyed great success with collectors on both sides of the Channel. It is perfectly reasonable therefore that the corpus should contain copies by Captain William Baillie (1723-1810) and John Smith of Chichester (1717-1764).

German copies, whether by Christian Gottfried Schultze (1749-1819) or by Georg Friedrich Schmidt (1712-1775), and those from Italy, via the disturbing echoes of the Orient by Castiglione (1609-1664), and the Venetian enterprise of Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825), have not been forgotten.

Adolf Carel Nunnink (1813-1894), Rembrandt Knocking on the Door of the Theatrum Anatomicum Collegium Chirurgicum, 1619
Lithography with white heightening, 270 × 355 mm

Nineteenth-century prints bear witness to a Rembrandt who has become a source to apprenticeship and education, whether through the reproductions of the Pitti Gallery (Jean-Baptiste Fortuné de Fournier (1798-1864)), or via the fanciful depiction of Rembrandt presenting himself with a portfolio and brushes at the door of the Theatrum Anatomicum Collegium of Amsterdam, clearly in order to execute his painting of Dr Tulp’s anatomy lesson (Adolf Carel Nunnink (1813-1894)).

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) and a later hand, Man in a Coat and Fur Cap Leaning Against a Bank
Etching, retouched posthumously with pen and grey ink, 118 × 83 mm

Honour to whom honour is due: this unusual collection contained no less than fifteen prints by the master himself. Looking at Landscape with a Cow Drinking (NHD 251) bearing the beginning of a signature, ‘Wa’, an example of the attempts at ‘restoration’ of the artist’s copper plates by his admirer Claude-Henri Watelet; or Christ Disputing with the Doctors: a Sketch (NHD 267), the original plate of which has been reworked by an anonymous artist. Last but not least, what could have induced an admirer - evidently in the eighteenth century - to ‘complete’ the admirable Man in a Coat and Fur Cap Leaning Against a Bank (NHD 48) with additions drawn in ink to reinforce the contrast of the impression?

Aude Prigot

A new member of the Parrocel family joins the Fondation Custodia collection

Attributed to Joseph-Ignace-François Parrocel, The Abduction of Persephone
Pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash, 130 × 170 mm
inv. 2017-A.579

To the art historian, the prolific Parrocel dynasty presents a research topic still largely awaiting exploration. The Fondation Custodia, as keen as ever to enlarge its collection of artists’ letters, has recently acquired a drawing signed ‘j.f. parrocel’. The drawing was included in a lot of letters from the collection of Georges Alphandéry, whose family came originally from the Comtat Venaissin. Interesting information to anyone seeking an attribution for our drawing, as the painter Joseph-Ignace-François Parrocel (1704-1781) was born in Avignon. He made the traditional journey to Rome with his cousin Étienne Parrocel in 1717, after a period of apprenticeship in the studio of his father, Pierre Parrocel. The two cousins followed very different career paths. Whereas Étienne chose to stay in Rome and devote himself to religious painting, Joseph-Ignace-François went to Paris and was accepted by the Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Encouraged by his cousin’s example, he would thenceforward paint religious scenes. He also seems to have specialised in the representation of mythological scenes including Bacchanalia, a subject somewhat closer to the topic of our drawing. His main models were the Italian masters of the Seicento. The longstanding doubt surrounding the identity of our artist is the result of a muddle over the two sons of Pierre Parrocel and their four first names: Joseph-François and Pierre-Ignace. All combinations of these four first names were used. The work of Fabrice Denis1 has made it possible to reveal that only one of the two brothers, Joseph-François, who was a painter, bore throughout his career the forenames, or some of the forenames, of his brother, who died prematurely. He appears to have adopted this habit after his second journey to Rome (1736-1740).

During his lifetime, and still today, Joseph-Ignace-François Parrocel was overshadowed by the more illustrious members of his family who were painters of battle scenes. The criticism levelled against him focuses particularly on the austerity and rigour of his paintings, in striking contrast to the spontaneity and vivacity of his drawings. This spontaneity is very evident in our drawing, executed in pen and brown ink, heightened with a brown wash. As Louis-Antoine Prat2 points out, it is possible to divide his drawings into two categories according to the materials used: drawings in black or red chalk heightened (or not) with white chalk, and drawings in pen and brown ink washed with grey or, less frequently, brown. Although it is difficult to establish an exact chronology for his graphic work, two broad periods of activity can be identified: the drawings with more thickly applied ink belong to his second stay in Italy and the lighter washes and chalks heightened with white belong to the period after his permanent return to Paris in about 1749. Bearing these indications in mind, our drawing could be attributed to the earlier period. One of the striking habits of Joseph-Ignace-François Parrocel, also noted by Louis-Antoine Prat, was that he signed most of his drawings. This could be a sign that he considered drawing to be an autonomous discipline, the direct expression of his creative ideas. The practice deserves our attention, however, at a time when studies were not automatically signed. The presence of a signature on our sheet, as well as the handwriting of the inscription and the pen-line in brown ink representing a frame are identical to those found in the drawings securely attributed to Joseph-Ignace-François Parrocel, in the Louvre (Venus handing Weapons to Aeneas, inv. 32261), in the Musée Fabre in Montpellier (Bacchante and Cupid, inv. 864-2-94) and the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt (Original Sin, inv. HZ. 5401). This could indicate a common provenance for the drawings which may have been a series of mythological subjects so often depicted by Parrocel.

Venus requesting Weapons for Aeneas or Venus presenting Weapons to Aeneas
Pen and brown and black inks, grey wash, 239 × 72 mm
Musée du Louvre, inv. 32261 Bis (verso)

Parrocel’s creativity is revealed to its full in his drawings, the subjects of which are much more varied than those of his paintings. Their rapid treatment bears witness to this artist’s great freedom of expression. He generally sketches in his figures with bold strokes, indicating shadows with strong parallel hatching, as can be seen in the upper right-hand area of our drawing. He remains faithful to certain formal conceits, for example his manner of drawing arms and legs, his predilection for slender silhouettes – apparently without bones – and his small, egg-shaped heads. In this drawing the artist commands our attention through his very bold composition, inspired by the violence of the theme of the abduction of Persephone. The vehemence of the gestures is striking and is emphasised by the presence of two putti fluttering around the sculptural group formed by Pluto and Persephone. The intersection of the outstretched arms of Persephone and her companion leads the gaze to the right-hand side of the composition, where Pluto is preparing to disappear with his captive. The faces of Persephone’s companions, although only lightly sketched, betray their absolute horror. The artist sets his composition in an Arcadian, pastoral landscape, vividly evoked by the presence of a basket of flowers seemingly abandoned in the midst of the confusion. This drawing could be compared with other drawings in the bucolic vein adopted by Joseph-Ignace-François Parrocel, most notably in his series of drawings illustrating the Aeneid, now in the Louvre (ill.).

The Fondation Custodia only owns one other drawing by the Parrocel family, a Study for the Death of St Francis Xavier (inv. 2502), a work by his Roman cousin, Étienne Parrocel.

Anaïs Chombar

1Joseph-François Parrocel (1704-1781), M.A. thesis by Fabrice Denis (Bibliothèque Michelet: M/M 1986-15).

2Louis-Antoine Prat, Le Dessin français au XVIIIe siècle, Somogy, Paris, 2017.

2020, the year of Léon Bonvin at the Fondation Custodia

In 2020, the Fondation Custodia will publish the catalogue raisonné of the French artist Léon Bonvin (1834-1866), under the direction of Gabriel Weisberg, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. On this occasion, the Fondation Custodia will organize an exhibition dedicated to the artist.

Professor Weisberg spent long years studying the work of nineteenth-century realist French painters. He took a particular interest in François Bonvin (1817-1887), publishing a monograph of his work in 1979, and his half-brother Léon. Less well-known than his brother, Léon’s life had a tragic end. He took over his father’s inn in Vaugirard and lived in poverty all his life, meeting an early death by his own hand; he however never abandoned his passion for drawing. Touching in its truthfulness, his work depicts the intimacy of everyday rural life: interior and exterior views of the inn, of the countryside around it, still-lifes and bunches of wild flowers.

In the context of this project we are looking for work by Léon Bonvin and for documents connected with his life, his career or the reception given to his work. We should be very grateful to anyone who has information about this artist or work by him to contact us; they can rest assured of our total discretion.

Contacts :
Gabriel Weisberg / Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris
vooni1942@aol.com / turgot@fondationcustodia.fr

Léon Bonvin, Street in Front of Léon Bonvin’s House, 1863
Watercolour. – 212 × 162 mm. inv. 2009-T.5

Digitising the collection of artists’ letters and manuscripts at Fondation Custodia

The ‘photo studio’ has been housed in the lower ground floor of Hôtel Turgot since 2014. This is where the digitisation of the works on paper of the Fondation Custodia is taking place (see E-newsletter no. 8, June 2015, p. 34). Work began with the collection of drawings, then continued in October 2014 with the print collection; today, it is mainly the collection of artists’ letters and manuscripts that remains to be digitised. Where are we now?

In spring 2016, when with our service provider Picturae we undertook our periodic evaluation of the progress of the project, the evaluation led us to make some modifications. Although the digitisation of the collection of drawings was more or less finished and the digitisation of the prints was well-advanced, the digitisation of the letters and manuscripts was causing a certain amount of anxiety. In fact, after nine months of digitisation at the rate of one week per month, the prospects for finishing the project stretched forward to about ten years!

  • © Yannick Pyanee
  • One of the most complicated objects to digitise: 148 letters and documents by Philippe Burty bound into a quarto volume, which represents 352 photographs to be taken in very difficult conditions for our operator.

The collection is estimated to contain some 50,000 documents; it comprises individual items, but also many lots which are still being inventoried. In addition, for each document the number of photographs can vary significantly. The short letter with its envelope, the letter several pages long, the bound volume of letters, the manuscript – all these different kinds of objects ‘cost’ varying amounts of time in terms of digitisation.

It was important for our service provider as well as for the Fondation to estimate the hours of work required, and to adapt the method of digitisation, reducing the deadline to something shorter and less vague. Various steps were taken.

Firstly, preparation was speeded up. Assisted by Bérengère Bauduin, usually employed in ticket sales and reception, and now able to take advantage of the summer closure of the bookshop, the acceleration allowed us to make an estimate of the number of takes we expected to produce. In September 2017, Anaïs Chombar took over from Bérengère. Anaïs completed the work of preparation and made a concentrated check of the photographs already taken. Secondly, we moved on to full-time digitisation. Since October 2016, our operator Anaïs Gaudefroy is at her post at the digitisation desk every day. The digitisation of prints has retained its previous rhythm, one week per month, the rest of the month being devoted to the digitisation of letters and manuscripts. A more ergonomic arrangement of the photo studio has made it possible for our operator to produce about 500 photographs a day. Now we predict a date for the completion of digitisation towards the end of 2020.

The storeroom of letters and manuscripts, Fondation Custodia
© Philip Provily

Digital accessibility has of course brought various benefits internally. In particular, to work on the database. We can now work collaboratively and take advantage of our regular pool of skills to improve our records. For example, at the beginning of this year, Anne Drouglazet, then doing an internship at the Fondation Custodia, was asked to complete the indexing of the autograph collection relating to the artist Jean Houël (1735-1813), whose drawings she had previously catalogued.

Our database continues to grow, with photographs and written content, every day. We hope to be able to give access via the public interface of the database by the beginning of 2019. The publication of the collection will take place in stages, starting with part of the collection of drawings, school by school. We are hoping to have the letters and early manuscripts (fourteenth to seventeenth centuries) ready by the end of 2019.

Meanwhile the letters and manuscripts can be consulted, by appointment only, every morning at the Fondation Custodia: contact by email at turgot@fondationcustodia.fr or by telephone: +33 (0)1 47 05 75 19.

Marie-Claire Nathan

Russian collectors’ marks

In the first volume of his Marques de collections de dessins & d’estampes, published in 1921, Frits Lugt brought together an impressive number of collectors’ marks; in the book, illustrations of the marks of public or private collections are accompanied by articles recording their history.

In his introduction, Lugt sets out his intentions: ‘Becoming acquainted with marks, aware of the kind of sheets on which they are found, keeping in mind their owners’ preferences, being capable, if need be, of recognising the value of relics in the finest pieces coming from great collectors, means gaining admission to the world of amateurs. We shall then feel that we have been accepted in the intimacy of their cabinet, had the opportunity to listen to their opinions, always instructive for those who are able to turn them to good account, and gained a clearer notion of the relative value of the beautiful, the precious, the rare.’

Among the long list of people who helped Lugt to assemble his marks was the Muscovite Pavel D. Ettinger (1866-1948), without whose contribution a series of Russian collectors’ marks would have been impossible to identify and describe. However, Lugt’s Supplément, published in 1956, contains only a few written additions without Russian help. At that time, finding and documenting new marks, in Russia as elsewhere, could not be taken for granted.

In 2003, the publication of a small volume devoted to the collectors’ marks on the engravings and lithographs in the Print Department in the Russian Museum in St Petersburg (Vladel’ceske znaki na gravjurach i litografijach. Na material otdela gravjury Gosudarstvennogo Russkogo muzeja) opened our eyes to a hitherto unsuspected number of existing collectors’ marks. The two authors, Olga V. Vlasova and Ekaterina L. Balašova, approached in 2006 by the Fondation Custodia to consider integrating their research on collectors’ marks with that of the Fondation, rapidly gave their consent.

Their articles, translated from Russian, form regular additions to our database in which can be found, as well as these new marks, a large body of information which has increased our knowledge of the Russian marks already incorporated.

At the same time as developing contacts with the curators of the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the relationships established with their colleagues in the Department of Graphic Art in the State Hermitage Museum, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and also the Museum of Fine Arts in the Republic of Tatarstan, in Kazan, has made it possible for us actively to pursue the enlargement of the number of Russian collectors’ marks. These are thus gradually integrated into the database of the Fondation Custodia. We invite you to explore these Russian marks at www.marquesdecollections.fr.

Peter Fuhring

A new face at the Fondation Custodia

In March of this year, Maud van Suylen joined the Fondation Custodia as a curator in training. Maud is one of the two new candidates to take part in the two-year apprenticeship organised jointly by the Fondation Custodia and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where co-candidate Alice-Anne Tod is currently working.

© Philip Provily

They are succeeding Marie-Noëlle Grison and Marleen Ram who participated in the first round of the biennial program (2016-2018). The purpose of the apprenticeship is to give young art historians with an interest in work on paper experience at the two locations, actively engaging in all facets of curating a collection of prints and drawings. After one year spent working at either the Fondation Custodia or the Print Room (Rijksprentenkabinet), the candidates switch places.

Could you tell us something about your training and how you became interested in works on paper?

Jacques de Gheyn II (c. 1565-1629), Rocky Mountain Landscape with a Castle, 1603
Pen and brown ink, 170 × 275 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv. RP-T-2014-22
Jacques de Gheyn II (c. 1565-1629), A Standing Nude Woman, c. 1603
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, 268 × 89 mm, inv. 1195

I developed an interest in drawings whilst doing a museum curator MA and working as a trainee curator at the Rijksprentenkabinet for a year. Under the supervision of former senior curator Marijn Schapelhouman and Head of the Print Room Jane Turner I grew fond of drawings by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish artists in particular. The encounter with the work of Jacques de Gheyn II must have been pivotal to that. I remember the first time looking at one of his drawings – a recent acquisition at the time from the collection of I.Q. van Regteren Altena – and being truly mesmerised by the flowy lines in pen and ink from which a grotesque landscape resulted, sprung completely from De Gheyn’s imagination. Here in Paris, in my first year of the two-year apprenticeship, I am fortunate to again be amongst some stunning drawings of De Gheyn collected by Frits Lugt.

How have you experienced the Fondation Custodia so far?

One of the first tasks I was assigned to do was catalogue a donation by Bauke Marinus from Amsterdam of twentieth-century prints of De Haagse Etsclub (The Hague Etching Society). At first, I felt that with this assignment I was being thrown in at the deep end. Having spent most of my time in my previous jobs looking at drawings, I had to get familiar with the printed medium again and I even had to jump a few centuries in time – no longer looking at pen and ink or chalk, but at aquatint, mezzotint and screen print.

However, this example is characteristic for my experience at the Fondation Custodia up until now, as I feel challenged to step out of my ‘comfort zone’ of Dutch Old Master Drawings. It is regularly emphasized not to have a too blinkered view in order to fully experience the variety of works (on paper) that are part of this collection. For example, managing the Study Room over the summer has helped me to do so. Many of the objects that were requested by visitors, I would normally not have pulled out of the boxes myself; letters from James Tissot, the handwritten inventory of Francesco Maria Niccolò Gabburri, Indian Miniatures and a stunning sketchbook of Jules Didier, to name just a few. Broadening my view and discovering new fields of interest is something I am luckily thoroughly enjoying. Likewise, another contribution on that part, has been the experience of installing the two recent exhibitions The American Dream and Waves of renewal, on American and Japanese prints respectively.

Jules Didier (1831-1892), Italian Sketchbook, 1860
Black chalk and watercolour, 105 × 170 mm, inv. 1999-T.12 (13)

You still have your year at the Rijksmuseum ahead of you, but as you have already worked there before, could you compare the two institutions?

To spend a year at both institutions as a junior curator will be something of great value, as they are indeed very different from each other and therefore will teach us different aspects of the job. Working in a relatively small team here at the Fondation Custodia means that – as a curator – you are much more aware of and involved in the tasks that in a bigger institution, such as the Rijksmuseum, belong to different departments: Development, Education, Marketing or the conservators. Overall, I would say, it demands a much more hands-on working spirit from its curators. When, for example, the dimensions of a painting are needed for an oeuvre or exhibition catalogue, it is quite common to take a painting downstairs to the restauration workshop yourself, de-frame it, take the measurements and re-frame it in order to hang it back on the wall. At the Rijksmuseum, such a request would involve about ten people. Moreover, although the offices of ‘De Villa’ (the old director’s residence) in the garden of the Rijksmuseum are a beautiful place to work, being able to have a desk in Hôtel Turgot and to be surrounded by the collection every single day is truly unique and above all very inspiring.

Which projects are you involved in now?

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669), Woman with a Child Frightened by a Dog, c. 1635-1636
Pen and brown ink, heightened with white gouache, 103 × 102 mm, inv. 5155

The drawings by Rembrandt and his pupils are to be launched online at the beginning of next year. Last year Marleen Ram had started cataloguing the drawings in the database, based on the entries written by Peter Schatborn. I am now completing those records with the newest information, such as recent exhibitions the drawings were part of. Besides, this task is the perfect excuse to take out the albums from time to time and glance at these wonderful sheets!

The Fondation Custodia will be the third venue of an exhibition dedicated to Frans Hals and the reunion of three of his paintings, Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion, opening in June 2019. Alongside these paintings we will exhibit a selection of works on paper from our own holdings, showing (portraits of) families and children such as depicted by Hals in his paintings. The children’s spontaneity and candour captured by seventeenth-century Dutch artists is something I would like to try and focus on. At the moment I am in the process of making the selection of drawings and prints that are suitable for the exhibition, and I will soon have to start writing texts for the small booklet. The beautiful print of Frederik de Vries by Hendrick Goltzius will definitely be part of it.

Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), Portrait of Frederik de Vries, 1597
Engraving, 360 × 266 mm, inv. 6408A

What do you hope to do in your remaining time here?

I still have six months left, so there is plenty of time to experience and discover new things. For example, last week I had the opportunity to bid at an auction for the first time. I absolutely enjoyed the thrill and excitement of that moment – once the nerves were gone, though! Moreover, there are still some beautiful albums of Italian and French drawings I have to spend an afternoon or two with.