Some time has passed since the start of 2022, and in the meantime the Fondation Custodia has welcomed thousands of visitors to two exhibitions—True to Nature. Open-air Painting 1780-1870 and Charles Donker. Always Looking.

It is very satisfying to see that so many people are interested in what we have to offer and leave afterwards with a sense of fulfilment. Likewise the media responses. Writing in the Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, Koen Kleijn said, ‘This is a wonderful exhibition and well worth the journey. Above all, it’s a happening that teaches us we have to radically alter our understanding of how our picture of the world has been constructed over past centuries.’ ‘Forget the great religious and mythological pieces. Forget the battles, the hunting scenes, the ceremonial portraits. The Fondation Custodia brings man down to his true level, a modest bit-player in the grand symphony of nature; who lives serenely without him. In an infinitely longer time frame, punctuated by sunrises and sunsets, the seasons…’ wrote Eric Biétry-Rivierre in Le Figaro. To which Philippe Lançon in Libération added, ‘‘The things seen are painted swiftly, outdoors, for what they are. The Fondation Custodia shows this interior journey in the open air in a magnificent exhibition.’

  • 1. Jan Siberechts (Antwerp 1627 – 1703 London), Study of an Old Gnarled Tree
    Black chalk and watercolour. – 444 × 311 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 4542
  • 3. Angeluccio (1620/25 – 1645/50, active in Rome), Eruption Cloud with Lava Coming out of Vesuvius, c. 1645
    Grey wash, white, pink and red gouache on beige paper. – 194 × 125 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-T.5
  • 4. François Stella II, attributed to (Lyon 1603 – 1647 Paris), Rooftops, with the Chevet of a Church
    Pen and brown ink, brown wash and white heightening, over a sketch in red chalk, on blue paper. – 342 × 253 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 1980-T.27

All this acclaim feels great, particularly since this exhibition had to be postponed twice because of the pandemic. A slightly smaller version was first staged in the National Gallery in Washington, and this summer it will move to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. To emphasize the fact that the way open-air painters looked at the world evolved from the ‘sur le motif’ (true to nature) drawing developed in the seventeenth century, we included a few sheets from the Fondation’s collection that illustrate this relationship, for instance the watercolour studies of trees by Jan Siberechts (fig. 1) and in the rocks section an improbably modern-looking pen and ink drawing that Bartholomeus Breenbergh made in the Park of Bomarzo in 1625 (fig. 2). Other examples are the depiction of a volcanoe in a recently acquired drawing by Angeluccio, a follower of Claude Lorrain (fig. 3) and, in the section on roofs, a drawing attributed to François Stella (fig. 4).

2. Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Deventer 1598 – 1657 Amsterdam), In the Park of Castello Bomarzo
Pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash. – 407 × 565 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 4478

Meanwhile, preparations are in full swing for the exhibitions scheduled to open in the autumn. One focuses on our collection of nineteenth-century French drawings, many of which have never been shown before, and the other is a monographic retrospective of the work of Léon Bonvin (1834-1866) accompanied by the publication of a catalogue raisonné. The exhibitions planned for 2023 include one on Jacobus Vrel, the result of a collaboration with the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Bayerische Gemäldesammlung in Munich. The Vrel collection catalogue written with these partners has already been published in three languages. Maud Guichané is working with the specialist Christian Jörg on the collection catalogue Chinese Porcelain in the Fondation Custodia. Finally, the work on the database is continuing full steam ahead.


Corps de garde

Until now, Frits Lugt’s collection of Dutch paintings lacked a ‘Koortegaard’, a corruption of the French expression ‘corps de garde’ (guardroom), a type of composition that was a genre in its own right in the seventeenth century. These were scenes of mercenaries and/or civilians passing the time with gaming and women before having to put in another appearance on the battlefield. A special exhibition about them was once staged in the Dutch fortified town of Naarden, and in 2017 Léonard Pouy-Engler wrote a lengthy thesis on the subject entitled Luctor et Emergo. Simon Kick (1603-1651) made a considerable number of paintings in this genre and the Fondation Custodia was recently able to purchase a major work of his. This panel went under the hammer in 1951 in Paris, after which it disappeared from view in a collection in Madrid, until it surfaced there last year (fig. 5). The collector’s heirs wanted to find a good home for it and chose the Fondation Custodia thanks to the mediation of the Brit Adrian Biddell.

5. Simon Kick (Delft 1603 – 1652 Amsterdam), Genre Scene with Soldiers Playing Dice, c. 1645-50
Oil on panel. – 74.6 × 91.4 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.63

The palette of browns, greys and beige is striking, as is the attention devoted to the doors and the coach on the left, the outlines of the straw and the structure of the stable where the action takes place. Wooden barrels serve as gaming tables. There are beautiful details, such as the still life of the hat that has fallen on the floor and the foreshortened boots that someone has taken off. The bow in the sash around the waist of the figure seen from behind is a delight and is reminiscent of Michael Sweerts’s paintings. And then there is the individual looking out of the canvas and searching for us. Germans have a neat expression for this: ‘Der Betrachter im Bilde’ (the viewer in the picture). As was not unusual in earlier art, it could be a self-portrait which means it could be Simon Kick, who was born in Delft and died young, who is looking at us. At long last he recently had a catalogue raisonné written about him by Jochai Rosen, who had to make do with an old black and white photograph for his entry about our painting.

  • 6. Reynier van der Laeck (The Hague 1615/20 - 1647/48 The Hague), Venus and Amor Lamenting the Death of Adonis, 1641
    Oil on panel. – 44 × 37 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.31
  • 7. A Pair of Torchieres, c. 1660
    Kingwood Charles II Parquetry. – height 86 cm, diameter 31 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Frits Lugt Collection, Paris

The work has been assigned a place in the Dutch Salon in Hôtel Turgot after it was given a stunning walnut frame of the same vintage. Previously it had a heavily gilded nineteenth-century frame. It is hanging next to the recently acquired Venus and Amor Lamenting the Death of Adonis by Reynier van der Laeck. That painting arrived in the collection in an imitation frame, and the framer Michael Gregory of Arnold Wiggins in London found a peerless frame for it in his company’s stock. It fitted exactly even though the painting’s format is absolutely non-standard (fig. 6). It’s too good to be true, but you can easily imagine that we’ve reunited the painting with its original frame! The grain and the shades in the reddish ebony balance perfectly with the brown tones in the panel. It contributes to the authenticity of the Dutch Salon, which was recently enhanced by the arrival of two torchieres (fig. 7).

8. Anonymous French, 17th century?, Soldier seen from Behind, Fighting Monsters
Oil on paper. – diam. 29 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.59

The seventeenth-century collection received a further addition in the shape of a tondo, a rare early example of an oil painting on paper. It appears to be of French origin, but we have so far been unable to unearth the name of the maker (fig. 8). We see a helmeted knight from behind brandishing his sword at a teeming mass of devilish forms—some of them are also in the trees—set against a red glow that is presumably supposed to suggest hellfire. It is possible that the iconography is derived from scenes in contemporary or sixteenth-century literature, but it is good to look on the painting as a rhetorically persuasive invitation to stand by the warrior in his fight against evil and vice. This is a highly original painting from the point of view of both the mise en scène and the execution using a limited palette of brown, orange, white and glowing red. It has been given a place near the grisailles and brunailles in the display, and close to the Temptation of Saint Anthony by Herri met de Bles, which also contains red firelight.


From soaring flames to the waterfall at Tivoli. In recent years, thanks to the purchase of paintings, artist’s letters, a large comprehensive sketchbook and a sales ledger in which the artist recorded which works left his studio, the Fondation Custodia has become an even better place to go to study the oeuvre of Simon Denis (1755-1813), an artist of Flemish origin, than was the case in 2003 when the Italian art historian Valentina Branchini from the University of Bologna wrote her doctoral thesis on Denis. After some oil sketches and the sensational Study of Trees bathed in sunlight, which has become the symbol of the True to Nature exhibition (see above), we acquired a View near Albano, dated 1784 (the first work known to have been painted by him in Italy) and last year a much more fluidly executed painting that is also a splendid document. Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) gives the following description in her journal: ‘I arrived in Rome, where it so seldom rains, precisely in the season of the autumn rains, which are veritable downpours. I had to wait for good weather to visit the surroundings. M. Ménageot then took me to Tivoli with my daughter and Denis, the painter; it was a delightful party. We went first to see the waterfalls, with which I was so enchanted that these gentlemen could not tear me away. I immediately sketched them with pastels, wishing to colour the rainbow that adorned these beautiful waterfalls. The mountain that rises to the left, covered in olive trees, completes the charm of the view.’

9. Simon Denis (Antwerp 1755 – 1813 Naples), Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun Sketching the Waterfalls at Tivoli, 1790
Oil on panel. – 48.3 × 62.1 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.62

At the front right the painting depicts the artist Vigée Le Brun using pencil or pastel to draw the waterfalls. Leaning against her is her fourteen-year-old daughter Julie; the governess Madame Charost looks on (fig. 9). The figures standing far below are presumably François-Guillaume Ménageot (1744-1816), director of the Académie de France in Rome, and Elisabeth’s husband, the painter and art dealer Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun (1748-1813), Simon Denis’s teacher and patron. The Le Bruns, who had been too close to the court and Marie-Antoinette, fled France during the revolution and met Denis in Rome, where they stayed with him. This painting beautifully captures the day the artist described and was without doubt a gesture of friendship from Denis in thanks for the support that he had received from the family. It looks as though the visit to Tivoli was in the autumn of 1789 and that the painting was made at the beginning of 1790, based on drawings produced on the spot and an open-air study that was put on the market by descendants of Simon Denis in 2006. For a very long time the picture remained out of sight to art historians until it surfaced at a sale in Stockholm in 1996.

  • 10. Anonymous French, 18th century, View of the Villa d’Este
    Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 38.5 × 51.6 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.48
  • 11. Guillaume Bodinier, attributed to (Angers 1795 – 1872 Angers), View of Rome from the Villa Borghese
    Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 29.2 × 43.7 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2014-S.24

The Fondation Custodia owns a few exceptionally fine views of Tivoli painted by seventeenth-century Dutch Italianates Nicolaes Berchem and Caspar van Wittel. Frits Lugt developed a liking for these paintings that was not generally shared, at a time when collectors were interested above all in Dutch landscapes. Along with the Simon Denis, we added a View of the Villa d’Este. Another of the sights in the vicinity, the work is by an as yet unidentified artist (fig. 10). The vantage point of the villa is exceptional and the execution with the sparkling sunlight is amazing. The superior handling of the daring perspective is almost reminiscent of the work of an architect. A number of artists’ names were considered during the search for attributions. They included Nicolas Didier Boguet, Joseph Bidauld and Alexandre-Hyacinthe Dunouy. A few years ago, we acquired a View of Rome from the Gardens of Villa Borghese with a similar treatment of the foliage and the same clarity in the lighting of the Eternal City with St Peter’s and Castel Sant’Angelo in de distance (fig. 11). That painting was traditionally attributed to Guillaume Bodinier (1795-1872), who was born in Angers and was a contemporary of Corot. However, this attribution is not completely secure. It is lucky for the art historian if the maker of an artwork leaves behind a signature. If not, there is the eye, and it is fortunate that there are works among the ensemble of oil studies and more finished paintings in the Fondation Custodia that give the eye scope to explore and discover. Meanwhile it is no hardship to live with masterpieces that are awaiting the name of their maker.

  • 12. Eugène Delacroix (Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798 – 1863 Paris), Landscape in Champrosay
    Oil on paper, laid down on panel. – 15.2 × 27.4 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2022-S.30
  • 13. Eugène Delacroix (Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798 – 1863 Paris), Landscape in Champrosay
    Oil on canvas, laid down on canvas. – 26 × 40.5 cm
    Collection de Bueil & Ract-Madoux, Paris

Eugène Delacroix

The way light is treated is completely different in a small painted landscape, discovered by Stéphane Rouvet in a private collection in the South of France, which we can attribute with full confidence to Eugène Delacroix (1798-1862) (fig. 12). It has to have been made in Champrosay, twenty kilometres southeast of Paris, in the landscape that the artist had known well since he started renting a summer home there in 1844. Later he would buy a house in the village. We became familiar with the phenomenon of an artist returning to the same motif and painting it in different light through the series by Claude Monet dating from the heyday of Impressionism, but before that it was Corot who, according to Odilon Redon, told him to ‘go and paint in the same place every year; copy the same tree’. And that message was also understood by Delacroix. In any event, he painted this landscape twice, once on canvas with somewhat greater attention to the space on the left, a work that at some point was part of Edgar Degas’s collection (fig. 13). And in this oil sketch on paper, depicting the same group of poplars but with significantly stronger backlighting. We can tell that Delacroix half-closed his eyes while he was painting.

14. Eugène Delacroix (Charenton-Saint-Maurice 1798 – 1863 Paris), Landscape Sketch with Trees to the Left
Watercolour with some bodycolour on paper. – 13.8 × 21.2 cm
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Kenneth Sanderson Bequest 1943, inv. D 4316

He must have been fascinated by the effect and clarity of contre-jour, where shapes form a compact globality, and concentrated on recording it in pastel (in the View from His House in Champrosay dating from 1853 and dedicated to Jenny Le Guillou, his housekeeper; Paris, musée du Louvre, inv. no. 1143) and in a sublime watercolour with very closely related tonal values and a similar dabbed execution (fig. 14). The way Delacroix was able to reduce a landscape to its essentials and equal the character of a watercolour in oil on paper is impressive.

  • 15. Léon Riesener (Paris 1808 – 1878 Paris), Hilly Landscape with Trees
    Oil on paper, laid down on cardboard. – 22 × 28.5 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2012-S.9
  • 16. Léon Riesener, attributed to (Paris 1808 – 1878 Paris), Study of Sky at Sunset
    Oil on panel. – 22.1 × 27 cm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2017-S.12

The Fondation Custodia already possessed two oil sketches by one of Delacroix’s closest friends, Léon Riesener (1808-1878), who was to inherit his house in Champrosay in 1862. One of them displays the same lightness of touch as the recently acquired Delacroix, which also looks like a watercolour (fig. 15). The other is a beautiful depiction of twilight, romantic in tone, more oil-like but still close as regards atmosphere (fig. 16).

17. Manuel Wielandt (Löwenstein 1863 – 1922 Munich), View of Cliffs at Sunset
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 24.9 × 40.9 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2016-S.26

The art of open-air painting went on to become more and more synthetic during the course of the nineteenth century and ultimately ended with evening-like light, where only a horizontal brushstroke is necessary to describe the setting sun—an effect that was tellingly praised by the American John Hiatt in 1988 as a ‘lipstick sunset’. In the song the guitar of the unsurpassed Ry Cooder sets out lines around the text in a way that few painters ever reach, with the exception of the German Manuel Wielandt (1863-1922), whose painting entered the collection of the Fondation Custodia a couple of years ago (fig. 17).

Ger Luijten

Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (Mortagne-au-Perche 1751 – 1820 Paris), Landscape in France, with a Path and a Figure in the Foreground
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 45.7 × 60.2 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.7
Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (Mortagne-au-Perche 1751 – 1820 Paris), Landscape in France, with a Path and a River in the Background
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 46.2 × 60.3 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.8
Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (Mortagne-au-Perche 1751 – 1820 Paris), Landscape in France, with a Church
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 44.5 × 57.4 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.9
Alexandre Pau de Saint-Martin (Mortagne-au-Perche 1751 – 1820 Paris), River Landscape in France
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 44.7 × 57.5 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.10
Frans Vervloet (Mechelen 1795 – 1872 Venice), View of the Frari Church, from the Calle San Rocco, Venice
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 41.9 × 35.2 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.17
Monogrammist C.h. (active c. 1890), View of a Square, Venice, 1893
Oil on panel. – 36.7 × 26.5 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.30
Gift Patrick Majoor, Laren
Henri Joseph Harpignies (Valenciennes 1819 – 1916 Saint-Privé, Yonne), Banks of the Loire River, 1872
Oil on canvas. – 23,9 × 36,6 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.33
Henri Joseph Harpignies (Valenciennes 1819 – 1916 Saint-Privé, Yonne), Farm of Magny in Saint-Privé (Yonne)
Oil on canvas. – 23.9 × 28.2 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.58
Stanislas Lépine (Caen 1835 – 1892 Paris), L’estacade et le Quai de Bercy
Oil on panel. – 19.7 × 32 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.47
Alfred de Curzon (Moulinet 1820 – 1895 Paris), View of Vico and the Bay of Naples, 1851
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 32 × 26 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.34
Charles Daubigny (Paris 1817 – 1878 Paris), Seine Valley
Oil on cardboard. – 23 × 32.5 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.57
Alexandre Decamps (Paris 1803 – 1860 Fontainebleau), View of a Street, Probably in the North of Africa
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. – 26.4 × 21.1 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.12
Isidore Meijers (Antwerp 1836 – 1916 Brussels), Foggy River Landscape
Oil on canvas. – 25.6 × 36 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.28
Henriette Ronner Knip (Amsterdam 1821 – 1909 Ixelles), A Corner of the Stable
Oil on canvas, laid down on panel. – 36.3 × 22.8 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-S.27
Tibout Regters, attributed to (Dordrecht 1710 – 1768 Amsterdam), Sleeping Man
Black chalk, heightened with white chalk on blue paper. – 247 × 298 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-T.75
Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (The Hague 1824 – 1903 The Hague), Beach Scene with Two Figures and Fishing Boats
Watercolour, ink and gouache on cardboard. – 90 × 127 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-T.4
Anonymous French, late 18th century or early 19th century, A Dam on a Mountain Stream
Gouache and watercolour, over a sketch in black pencil. – 181 × 264 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-T.38
Achille Benouville (Paris 1815 – 1891 Paris), Wash House in the Campagna Romana, c. 1860
Watercolour and gouache over a sketch in graphite. – 110 × 167 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-T.16

Artists’ Letters Acquired in 2021

The earliest letters by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) were addressed to schoolmates who became lifelong friends, and by their very length they occupy a special place in his correspondence. They are an indispensable source for their author’s life during these years, his states of mind, his discovery of literature, the theatre, music, nature and hunting, and his first steps on the path to becoming a painter. We were able to acquire seven of these epistles in 2021, along with many more letters from other periods of Delacroix’s long career (fig. 1).

1. Eugène Delacroix, letter to Achille Piron, maison des gardes, forêt de Boixe, 23 October 1818
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

Achille Piron (1798-1865), to whom they were written, chose to pursue a career in the Post Office, but on Delacroix’s death he was named as his universal heir. Two years later he published the first monograph on his friend, which contained a number of letters and texts from Delacroix’s private records. These archives were to remain in his heirs’ hands for more than a century, but in 1997 they unexpectedly appeared in a sale in Caen and were dispersed. Caught unawares, the Fondation Custodia nevertheless managed to get hold of a few, including thirty-seven letters, never edited, that Piron had written to his friend between 1816 and 1863. The correspondence is less well preserved on Delacroix’s side: around twenty are now known—all from the early years of their friendship. At some point they found their way into the autographs market and two of them, including a completely unknown one dating from 1815, reached the Fondation Custodia by this route. Although the majority were published in 1954 by their then owner, Alfred Dupont, a new study of this material could certainly shed fresh light on the often cryptic contents, now that quite many of the originals have resurfaced and Piron’s replies can be matched to them. Dating from the following decade are three letters to another friend, whom Delacroix met when he was a student at the École des Beaux-Arts. This was Charles Soulier (1792-1866), who had spent his childhood in England and is credited as the person who taught Delacroix to paint in watercolours. Delacroix’s friendship with him also endured for the whole of his life.

Other groups of letters from major nineteenth-century artists also reached the collection in 2021, likewise relating to material already present. Over the years a quite significant number of letters written by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) have been patiently assembled in the Fondation Custodia. In 2019 it was possible to add one of Degas’s rare letters containing a sketch, documenting his now lost bust of Hortense Valpinçon, followed in 2020 by eighteen letters written towards the end of his life to the painter Louis Braquaval (1854-1919). In 2021 they were joined by the twenty letters that bear witness to his friendship with Hortense Howland, née Delaroche-Laperrière (1835-1920), to whose famous salon Degas was a visitor from the eighteen-eighties onwards. The correspondence begins with a cheerful letter written from Mont-Saint-Michel (fig. 2), where Degas had followed a company from the Paris opera, after the performance of a ballet in Paramé for which his friend, Ludovic Lepic, had designed the costumes. He enjoyed his stay at Madame Poulard’s auberge so much that he returned there two weeks later. In the later letters in this series—which breaks off in 1896—the ironic and gallant tone can scarcely conceal Degas’s growing concern about his failing eyesight.

  • 2. Edgar Degas, letter to Hortense Howland, Le Mont-Saint-Michel, 5 August 1885
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

The nearly hundred views of the Thames by Claude Monet (1840-1926) are the result of three trips to London that the painter took in the winters of 1899, 1900 and 1901. The realization of this project, with serial production of the same views over and over again in different lighting conditions, is extraordinarily well documented in the letters Monet wrote almost daily to his second wife, Alice Hoschedé (1844-1911). In 2021 the Fondation Custodia was able to add eleven of them, written in February 1900 and February and March 1901, to the two, likewise written in February 1901, that were already in the collection. For the views of Charing Cross Bridge and Waterloo Bridge, the artist worked from his room in the Savoy Hotel; for those of the Houses of Parliament he managed, as emerges from his letter of 12 February 1900, to secure a spot in the reception hall of St Thomas’ Hospital on the south bank of the river (fig. 3).

3. Claude Monet, letter to Alice Hoschedé, London, 12 February 1900
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

The letters reveal his struggles with the rapidly changing weather—rain, snow, not enough sun, thick fog—that stopped him working on paintings he had already started. The end of his last stay was not productive because he was unwell, as he writes in his letter of 12 March 1901, and eventually he completed his paintings in his studio in Giverny. In 2021 we were also able to obtain a rare letter written by Monet in his early years in Paris to one of his first collectors, Georges de Bellio (1842-1898), and six letters to the poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1828-1894).

Curt Glaser (1879-1943), curator at the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin and subsequently director of the Kunstbibliothek there, owned an important collection of contemporary artists, from 1910 centring around the work of Edvard Munch (1863-1944). In 1912 he succeeded in establishing contact with the reclusive painter, swiftly followed by a visit that developed into a close friendship. Over the years they must have carried on an extensive correspondence; Glaser’s share is still in the Munchmuseet in Oslo. Munch’s letters to him were thought to have been lost until eight came to light in 2013. In 2021, the Fondation Custodia was able to add them to the—just—three letters from the artist in the collection. The correspondence must have been much more comprehensive than this, for 145 letters from Glaser to Munch are held in Oslo, the last one dating from 1939, along with many drafts by Munch of letters to him. Further research is required to precise how the letters acquired in 2021, only three of which are dated, fit in. What is certain, however, is that the group includes Munch’s earliest letter to his admirer, dated 1912, about the sale of Workers in the Snow (Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art)—in part as thanks for Glaser’s efforts on behalf of his art—to the latter’s father-in-law.

4. Edvard Munch, letter to Curt Glaser, Skoien, 6 January 1922
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

In January 1922 he told Glaser about his work on Horse Team in the Snow (Oslo, Munchmuseet) and his decorations for the Freia chocolate factory in Oslo (fig. 4), in October 1931 about his self-imposed solitary life, his fragile nerves and his poor sight—a recurring subject in the other letters as well. It is clear from the correspondence that over the years Glaser increasingly acted as Munch’s contact in Germany, and took care of his business dealings with museums, collectors and journals. Among the letters was also a sheet with Munch’s own observations on some of his early works, perhaps as a note to be used by Glaser for his 1917 monograph on the painter.

This is just a small selection of the acquisitions in a year that may safely be described as exceptional, passing over much other exciting material. To mention nevertheless a few: twenty-one letters and some manuscripts of poems by Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767-1824) entered the collection, six letters from Camille Pissarro (1830-1902), twelve from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), seven from Paul Signac (1863-1935), seven from Henri Matisse (1869-1954)—to his wife, dating from 1910-1912, the first three immediately preceding a group acquired in 2018—, letters from Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Alfons Mucha (1860-1939), Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865) and Félicien Rops (1833-1898), and illustrated letters from Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Paul Klee (1879-1940), René Magritte (1898-1967) and Koloman Moser (1868-1918)—this last a follow-up, written five days later, to a letter about the design for a ‘Reform’ dress, probably to his future wife, Ditha Mautner von Markhof, which had been in the collection since 2003 (figs. 5, 6).

  • 5. Koloman Moser, letter to Ditha Mautner von Markhof (?), 22 September 1904
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris


  • 6. Koloman Moser, letter to Ditha Mautner von Markhof (?), 27 September 1904
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

A rare letter from Michel-Ange Slodtz (1705-1764), about his monument for the archbishops Armand de Montmorin and Henri de La Tour d’Auvergne in Vienne Cathedral entered as a much appreciated gift.

The most surprising acquisition of the year was without any doubt the correspondence between Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) and an unidentified woman with whom he must have had an affair some two years before his premature death, whose surname is all we know about her. The existence of this correspondence had been noted since several decades, but apart from a few extracts it had never been published. The main part of the letters came on to the market in 2021 and, with a letter that had been acquired in 2016, it may now be assumed that the lion’s share of the correspondence—eleven letters from Géricault and ten from Madame Trouillard—are now in the rue de Lille. How this intimate exchange survived is a mystery: while no more than fifty letters by Géricault himself are known, his whole archive of incoming post appears to have been lost on his death. Evidently an unknown hand saved these letters, sent back by a bitter Madame Trouillard at the end of the romance, from the estate, together with hers.

  • 7. Théodore Géricault, letter to Mme Trouillard, 20 June 1822
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

In a letter written in February 1821, acquired by the Fondation in 2019, Géricault had hinted about the affair to his friend Dedreux-Dorcy: ‘[…] also a conquest […] a woman not in the first flush of youth but still beautiful and surrounded by all the prestige of fortune has taken it into her head to be crazy about me […] she calls me the god of painting and she adores me as such […] what saddens me is that her husband is an excellent man who has a thousand kindnesses for me.’ Further study will doubtless bring to light more about Mme Trouillard and her husband, and their relationship to Géricault, and help pin down more precisely the chronology of the largely undated correspondence. While love letters from artists are rare enough in themselves—the Fondation has an early example in the one Eglon van der Neer (1635/36-1703) wrote in 1658—the great importance of the correspondence lies of course in the new information that will emerge about the life and character of Géricault, for there are still huge gaps in our knowledge. But, more than the artist’s other known letters, they also give occasional glimpses of a literary talent that can hold its own with great letter writers from the Romantic era:

‘Here is the delightful hour when the fortunate lover rests deliciously in the arms of his mistress, which the memory of pleasure still seems to stir. His dreams are also happiness for her. Let’s not disturb them. We have enough to do. I will speak very low, listen to me without making a sound. Last night I thought I saw you, dreams deceive us, they flatter us, you may know that. I visited you the first time, it is always very polite to begin by saying that you looked beautiful to me! Oh how friendship seems to me to be little to offer you. I blushed without daring to speak, because all possible follies went through my head at the same time, about friendship! I won’t tell you about these follies, though sleep makes everything excusable: but how easy it would be to imagine my confusion, if I could adequately describe all the graces of a beautiful body stretched out languidly on a bed all of down, enveloped in a sheer, light tunic that does not conceal the contours; if I could also tell you of all the charm of two lazy arms that try to support a beautiful head numbed by sleep, whose ebony hair brings out its whiteness so well. I’ve seen more than all this, would I be wrong to admit it—have benevolence and friendship ever troubled the heart? Here I am, up, busy writing to you without having been able to realize all this, awakening banishes all illusions, reason regains its empire, I see myself—as I am—still happy if I don’t seem like a bad jester to you or some dwarf one is curious to see for one’s amusement ... to visit you!’ (fig. 7).

Hans Buijs


True to Nature. Open-air Painting 1780-1870

Until 3 April 2022

Over one hundred and fifty oil studies are brought together from the collections of the Fondation Custodia, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and a private collector.

Louis Léopold Robert (Les Eplatures, Neuchâtel 1794 – 1835 Venice), View of Naples with Vesuvius, 1821
Oil on paper, mounted on canvas. – 18.5 × 28.6 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, bequest of Carlos van Hasselt and Andrzej Niewęgłowski, Paris, inv. 2010-S.7

In the second half of the eighteenth century, the practice of painting landscape oil sketches in the open air became widespread across Europe. Nurtured by philosophical writings, scientific enquiry and poetic sentiment, artists ventured outside their studios with portable painting kits, working quickly before the motif in order to train their eyes and hands in transcribing fleeting effects of light and atmosphere.

Italy was at the centre of this tradition, and artists from all over Europe travelled south to paint the monuments of Rome and the idealised landscapes of the Campagna. Most of these oil sketches, however, were not of celebrated sites, but of unassuming corners of the world and spontaneously observed glimpses of nature – the ever-changing shape of a cloud, the textured bark of a tree, the flow of running water.

John Constable (East Bergholt 1776 – 1837 London), Cloud Study: Stormy Sunset, 1821-22
Oil on paper, mounted on canvas. – 20.3 × 27.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., gift of Louise Mellon in honour of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, inv. 1998.20.1

Occupying a place between painting and drawing, these landscape studies were essentially the private working material of the artist; a precious resource which could be drawn upon to bring a sense of freshness and immediacy to larger-scale studio compositions, but which most artists would have never dreamed of exhibiting.

Anonymous French, 19th century, A Terrace on the Isle of Capri
Oil on paper, mounted on canvas. – 32.7 × 30.8 cm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. 2014-S.10

The exhibition True to Nature presents an extraordinary opportunity for the close study of these strikingly modern landscapes. The works are presented thematically, creating rhythmic and poetic juxtapositions, and encouraging visitors to immerse themselves in each motif, witnessing the individuality of artistic responses and the experimentation invited by the technique.


Charles Donker. Always Looking

Until 3 April 2022

Charles Donker is an etcher who lives and works in Utrecht, where he was born in 1940. His technique, and the renowned delicacy of his work, place him among the greatest Dutch graphic artists of his time.

Charles Donker, Young Tawny Owl, 1976
Etching. – 238 × 234 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

Donker works principally ‘on the spot’. ‘I do not know how to be anywhere other than out of doors’, the draughtsman and printmaker confesses. ‘I need to see the sky, hear the rustling of the trees, watch the birds flying about and experience nature’s profound silence. I would be seriously unhappy if I could no longer go outside’.

This ‘outside’ can be located anywhere. Donker has travelled in France, England, Spain, Poland, Latin America and Israel. At Rhijnauwen, in the Netherlands, Donker has been working since 1970 in the former dwelling of a forester. The great landscape artists of the nineteenth century made sketches en plein air, then re-worked them in the studio. Donker’s view is that ‘what is done on the spot is generally the best’. That’s why he prefers etching directly onto the plate.

Charles Donker, Pile of Wood with Reed and a Beehive, c. 1992
Etching. – 297 × 394 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

A print by Charles Donker is a summary of events observed over a few days, in places where almost nothing exists but the place itself. The slightest motion is forbidden. Donker thinks birds fly too fast for his taste, he can only represent them when they are very close and make no movement of wing or claw for a long stretch of time.

Charles Donker, Cloud Forest: Trees in Tropical Forest near Utuana, Ecuador, 2003
Watercolour. – 300 × 400 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris

At this exhibition, those who know Charles Donker only as a printmaker will discover a completely different aspect of his talent. The landscapes of Spain and Latin America demonstrate the colourist dormant within him, through a selection of watercolours, wash drawings and pencil sketches. The group of works cover the fifty years of the artist’s career.

Notes on the drawings of

Nicolas Didier Boguet the Elder (1755-1839)

in the Fondation Custodia

Since the year 1980, the Fondation Custodia has had in its possession a landscape drawing, dated and located ‘Moulin de Tosi près vall’ombrosa 1793’ (‘Watermill in Tosi near Vallombrosa, 1793’) (fig. 1). The spacious, hilly landscape is traversed by a shaft of light which illuminates a road with a low, single-vaulted bridge and a stone building, the mill, on the right-hand side. On the left, elegant shady trees lean over the water course, echoing the rhythm of the chestnut trees and other plants and bushes.

1. Nicolas Didier Boguet, attributed to (Chantilly 1755 – 1839 Rome), Landscape with a Watermill in Tosi near Vallombrosa, 1793
Brown wash over a sketch in black chalk. – 275 × 427 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 1980-T.23

The drawing has been given to Constant Bourgeois (1767-1841) since its acquisition with that attribution from the Galerie de Bayser in 1980.1 The date of the drawing suggests, however, that Bourgeois could not be its author as, according to his biographers, in 1793-94 Constant Bourgeois was a volunteer in the Fourth Battalion of the Haute-Garonne, sent to Nîmes and Paris.

The attention given to the light, the colour values of the grey and beige, as well as the very individual way of observing the trees and other vegetation lead us away from the slightly desiccated landscape drawings of the pupil of David, and encourage us to propose the name of Nicolas Didier Boguet the Elder. This celebrated landscape artist, who had been staying in Italy since 1783, went to Florence at the beginning of 1793 and spent some time living in Vallombrosa.

A passionate draughtsman, Boguet was at this time a master of the grey and brown wash as well as the play of light. He also possesses his own very recognisable manner of using graphite and touches of wash to delineate the foliage of different plants. Finally, the use of oblique hatching in graphite under the wash is another distinguishing feature of his drawings. His two main biographers, Paul Marmottan2 and Marie-Madeleine Aubrun,3 lay great stress on the perfect equilibrium of his compositions and his impressive pictorial flexibility. All these characteristics can be found in Landscape with a Watermill in Tosi near Vallombrosa.4

Nicolas Boguet frequently ascribes his landscape drawings to a particular location, as can be seen in a large number of examples, in particular those now in the Istituto Centrale per la Grafica / Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe. This large collection possesses 1200 drawings by the artist,5 including two other studies of the same place in Tuscany: a View of Vallombrosa and Trees near the Convent in Vallombrosa.

In addition, this drawing bears three collectors’ marks, and these give us a clue to its history before it was exhibited at Galerie Prouté, then at Galerie de Bayser: first, the collection of baron Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825; L. 779), then, that of the marquis Philippe de Chennevières (1820-1899; L. 2073) and finally, that of Jean Cantacuzène (1863-1934; L. 4030). It has proved impossible to find this exact drawing in the Jean Cantacuzène sale in June 1969: only one drawing attributed to Bourgeois could be related to our drawing.6 In the Chennevières sale, in April 1900, there is no mention of a drawing by Constant Bourgeois, but a drawing by Boguet features under lot 538 (with no description of its subject, however).7 At the sale of the effects of baron Dominique Vivant Denon in May 1826, a drawing described under lot 846 could correspond to our sheet: ‘An exceptional drawing, in pencil, sepia wash and Indian ink, by Boguet, represents a watermill in a hilly landscape, and partly shaded by trees’.8

If this new attribution is accepted, this landscape would be the third drawing by Boguet in the collection of the Fondation Custodia.

2. Nicolas Didier Boguet (Chantilly 1755 – 1839 Rome), View of the Adige Valley
Pen and black ink, grey wash over blue paper. – 181 × 245 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 1987-T.10

The first of these, View of the Adige Valley (fig. 2) can be connected with the painting of the Battlefield at Rivoli. The latter painting, commissioned by General Bonaparte in 1797, with the Crossing of the River Po by the Army, was completed in 1801.9 The drawing presents the same features as are so vividly described by Paul Marmottan in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts,10 whether it be the ‘rocky terrain in the foreground’, ‘the leaf-covered trees on the right and left of the composition’, the middle ground with the ‘Rivoli plain surrounded by mountains, dominated on the left by Monte Baldo whose summit is concealed by clouds’, or finally ‘on the right, the sinuous flow of the Adige which plunges down at the foot of the gorge’. Our drawing could be a study from life, dating from 1797 and could be associated with the three days spent by the artist with four grenadier guards in the neighbourhood of the village of Rivoli where he made ‘views of the battlefield in all directions’ in preparation for the General’s commission.11

3. Nicolas Didier Boguet (Chantilly 1755 – 1839 Rome), Hilly Landscape with a Valley, 1829
Black chalk and brown wash heightened with white chalk on grey-green paper. – 440 × 613 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 1998-T.258
4. Guillaume Bodinier, Boguet and his Son in the Roman Campagna, 1832
Drawing (photography from the documentation des Peintures, musée du Louvre)

It does not seem possible to link the second drawing, Hilly Landscape with a Valley (fig. 3) to any known composition. It bears the date 1829, the artist was then aged 74. At this period, Boguet often worked alongside his only son, Didino, a painter like him. He would set out across the Roman Campagna – as reported by Chateaubriand in 1828: ‘I started our former walks with him once more; I only perceive his age from the slowness of his steps. I experience a sort of tenderness in pretending to be young, and adjusting my pace to his. Neither of us have long to watch the Tiber flow’.12

Laurence Lhinares

1Cat. de Bayser, Dessins et Sculptures de maîtres anciens et modernes, 1979, no. 4; the drawing appeared previously in a catalogue published by the Galerie Prouté (cat. no. 71, Autumn 1978, no. 23).

2Paul Marmottan, Le Paysagiste Nicolas-Didier Boguet (1755-1839), Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1925.

3Marie-Madeleine Aubrun, Nicolas-Didier Boguet (1755-1839), ‘un émule du Lorrain’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1974.

4Vol. 2700 IV, c no. 319 and vol. 2700 IV, c no. 324.

5The collection consists of 4 volumes of drawings (respectively 147, 188, 190 and 252 drawings) which entered in 1909, then 244 more drawings and a very highly finished drawing which entered the collection in 1910; the whole group came from C. Rossinani, the artist’s great grandson by marriage.

6Sale Jean Cantacuzène, Paris, 4-6 June 1969, lot 539: ‘Landscapes. 2 drawings attributed to Bourgeois and Lallemand’.

7Sale marquis de Chennevières, Paris, 4-7 April 1900, lot 538: ‘Eleven drawings by Bellanger, Berthélemy, N. Bertin, Blondeau, Blondel, Boguet, J. Bremant, Brenet, Briard’.

8Sale D.-V. Denon, Paris, 1-19 May 1826, lot 846.

9Musée de Périgueux, on loan from the musée du Louvre, inv. 2677.

10Paul Marmottan, Le Paysagiste Nicolas-Didier Boguet (1755-1839), Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1925, p. 21.

11The booklet of the Salon of 1836 states that: ‘Bonaparte, general-in-chief of the Italian army, commissioned the artist to go to the battleground three days later to produce a view of this place that had become so memorable’.

12Fr.-R. de Chateaubriand, Memoirs from Beyond the Grave, Book XXX, chap. VI, [Paris 1849-1850].

An Unknown Drawing of Johannes Bosboom’s Studio

In 2020 the Fondation Custodia bought a watercolour by the Dutch artist Johannes Bosboom (1817-1891). It is a view, not previously published, of the artist’s studio (fig. 1) and a splendid addition to the Fondation Custodia’s existing watercolours.

1. Johannes Bosboom (The Hague 1817 – 1891 The Hague), My Studio, 1887
Watercolour and gouache. – 251 × 174 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2020-T.6

The collection already contained twenty-one drawings by the artist, all of them purchased by Frits Lugt. Later, the Fondation succeeded in acquiring a letter with a sketch. Bosboom is best known for his church interiors, which were his speciality. These paintings reflect the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch masters. He was also a skilled watercolourist.

Bosboom was a successful artist and a recognized master in the city of his birth, The Hague, where he spent his entire working life. In the summer of 1877 he and his wife, the famous writer Anna Louisa Geertruida Bosboom-Toussaint (1812-1886), went to live in Veenlaan (which is now called Toussaintkade after his wife). He continued to live there until his death. He had a studio built at the end of the garden of his new home. We can get an idea of what it looked like from various sources—letters from the artist, descriptions by visitors and drawings. In 1879, for instance, Bosboom described it in detail to Jan Diederikus Kruseman (1828-1918): the studio was rectangular, ten metres long and five and a half metres wide, and had a gable roof. The interior of the roof structure was open, revealing the trusses and purlins. The oblong interior was divided into a large space, the studio, and a smaller anteroom, where people entered the building. There was a doorway in the partition between them. Bosboom had carefully arranged his collection of traditional Dutch furniture, ecclesiastical objects and statues in his studio. According to visitors it looked like an old Dutch church!

We get a fantastic visual image thanks to thirteen small, intimate watercolours that Bosboom made of his workroom, which are in the Fondation Custodia’s collection. Lugt bought them at a sale in Amsterdam on 18 June 1968. The drawings are in a portfolio with a handwritten title page bearing the words: Mijn Atelier in Schetsen (My Studio in Sketches). Bosboom made them in 1880 especially for his friend and patron Gijsbert van Tienhoven (1841-1914). He also included a letter, dated 11 February 1880, containing explanatory notes about the first six drawings (at that time he had not yet produced the remaining sketches). Each small sketch shows a different part of the studio and, through these ‘glimpses’, the series gives the most complete picture of the workplace. Despite their small size, the artist was able to accurately reproduce the layout, the atmosphere and the light.

2. Johannes Bosboom (The Hague 1817 – 1891 The Hague), The Artist’s Studio in The Hague, c. 1881
Watercolour and gouache. – 380 × 275 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 7338

Some ten years before the purchase of the portfolio, Frits Lugt had acquired a large sheet of the studio’s interior on which the doorway in the partition can be seen (fig. 2). This watercolour came from the collection of the painter Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915). A larger, more detailed version of the same part of the interior is in the Kunstmuseum The Hague. This sheet is one of the artist’s best-known drawings.

When I described the aforementioned series of thirteen watercolour sketches and the other known views of the studio in an article (R.S. Blok, ‘Johannes Bosboom’s Studio in Watercolour Sketches’, Master Drawings, 55, 2017, no. 2, pp. 153-174), in 2017, I was not aware of the drawing that the Fondation Custodia bought in 2020. It shows a view of the interior that had not been known before.

The work is dated 21 April 1887; this means it was made later than the other studio interiors, which were produced in 1880 and 1881. In 1887 Bosboom apparently returned to the theme of his own workplace. This time we see the back of the easel on the right and, if we look carefully, we can even see that Bosboom has portrayed himself at work, for the painter’s legs are visible below the easel, while his maulstick protrudes from behind the canvas on the left! In the background there is a number of chairs and cupboards with statues and ecclesiastical objects on them.

  • 3. Johannes Bosboom (The Hague 1817 – 1891 The Hague), View of the Artists’ Studio with Drawing Table
    Watercolour and gouache. – 137 × 87 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris inv. no. 9060F
  • 4. Johannes Bosboom (The Hague 1817 – 1891 The Hague), View of the Artists’ Studio with a Chair and Old Books
    Watercolour and gouache. – 160 × 89 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 9060O
  • 5. Johannes Bosboom (The Hague 1817 – 1891 The Hague), Ecclesiastic Objects in the Artist’s Studio
    Watercolour and gouache. – 139 × 88 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 9060L

This leaves the question of which part of the studio we see on the recently acquired watercolour. Fortunately, the large cupboard on the left is also shown on a small sketch of the studio’s rear wall (fig. 3). Bosboom wrote the following about this small sketch in the letter accompanying the portfolio: No. 5 depicts a part of the larger studio, seen towards the back, with the Gothic chest and my drawing table in the foreground. Bosboom added to the little sketch a figure in a historical costume who appears to be studying drawings on the aforementioned table. The letter from Bosboom to Kruseman referred to above provides even more information about this part of the studio: The Gothic cupboard at the back with the idem bishops on top, and above and behind them the Gothic panels, between which there are a couple of old portraits, and above, in the middle, there is a scutcheon, while on both sides of the said cupboard there hang old red curtains, behind which old tomes protrude. It creates a characteristic scene. The new acquisition therefore shows the studio’s rear wall.

Other elements that we can see in the newly acquired watercolour are also found in the sketches in the portfolio. The narrow cupboard in the middle, full of books, is also shown in one of the small sheets dating from 1880 (fig. 4). It is furthermore possible that the monstrance on the left-hand side of the top of the cupboard is the same as the one in the small still life of ecclesiastical objects that were displayed in his studio (fig. 5).

We find one last clue about the recently acquired watercolour on a drawing by Willem Steelink (1826-1913). On 11 March 1887 Steelink made a drawing of the artist at his easel (Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv. no. PAK 4949). It may have been done in preparation for the portrait of the master on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, which was celebrated on 26 March of that year with a dinner organized by the artists’ association Pulchri Studio. In 1893 the portrait was published in the Haagsch Jaarboekje as an illustration in an article about Johannes Bosboom.

In Steelink’s drawing, Bosboom looks from behind his easel towards the doorway in the partition. Remarkably enough, Bosboom sits in the same position as in the watercolour by Bosboom acquired by the Fondation Custodia, and the maulstick is also held in the same manner. A stool with an open album on it standing next to the easel appears on both sheets. In our drawing of 21 April, in other words dated a few weeks later than Steelink’s sheet, the position of the easel must still have been the same.

Thanks to the acquisition of the unknown view in the studio, we not only add a new glimpse of the artist’s workplace. The Fondation Custodia now also owns a hidden self-portrait of the painter, with which we again enhance the collection of artist portraits.

Rhea Sylvia Blok

A rare Renaissance silverpoint sketchbook acquired by the Fondation Custodia

Very few drawings by young apprentice artists survive from the Renaissance. They must have looked much like the drawings children bring home from school today – as the painting by Gian Francesco Caroto (1480-1555), now in Verona, suggests (fig. 1).

1. Giovanni Francesco Caroto (Verona 1480 – 1555 Verona), A Child Holding a Drawing
Oil on panel. – 37 × 29 cm
Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona
© A. Dagli Orti / © NPL - DeA Picture Library / Bridgeman Images

If they were as delightfully awkward as this one, why indeed would their masters have preserved the drawings in the studio? But in fact, such pages may never have existed. Paper was an expensive commodity in the sixteenth century: a ream of paper could cost the equivalent of a month’s earnings. Certainly too expensive for young beginners to use for their exercises. The ‘Exercise’, ‘Usus’ in Latin, was at the time the key to learning to draw. The hand and the eye had to be trained by copying models over and over again; evidence of this can be found in seventeenth-century books and treatises on drawing.

2. Silverpoint Sketchbook, page 1
Silverpoint on prepared parchment. – 120 × 178 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-R.1

So, what did budding painters use to practise on? The late, much regretted Ernst van de Wetering has produced the most interesting hypothesis on this subject: very young apprentices may have practised on erasable and re-usable supports.1 Not on slates, as used by schoolchildren then and now, but on pages of parchment coated with powdered calcinated animal bones mixed with a binder, which varied over the centuries. This produced a rigid ivory-coloured surface on which it was possible to draw with a metalpoint made usually of silver (fig. 2).

The sketches or lines could be erased with a wet paintbrush or, even more effectively by using a second coat of the preparation to cover the traces. The first recorded description of these drawing tablets is given by the artist Cennino Cennini (1370-c. 1440) in his Libro dell’Arte in 1390. He gives them the name ‘tavolette’. For apprentice draughtsmen he recommends tavolette made of highly polished planks of boxwood or figwood, but he also adds that they can be prepared with pieces of parchment covered with a mixture of white lead and oil, then coated with the same powdered bone paste as the planks. According to Cennini, these parchment tavolette were often used as account books by merchants. They must have been bound together to make a pocket-sized notebook. It seems probable that they were widely used in Renaissance Europe: a Bavarian manuscript, one hundred years later, explains how to make such writing tablets with parchment, describing the way they can be easily re-used by effacing the writing with saliva.

We do not know exactly when these books of tavolette began to be used by artists, but the oldest ones surviving today date mainly from the second half of the sixteenth century and were produced in Germany and the Low Countries, North and South, where they were called ‘tafeletten’, probably derived from the Italian name.

The Fondation Custodia collection holds many sketchbooks offering a comprehensive record of these essential companions to artistic practice from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. But until last year it did not possess a tafelet. Ger Luijten, familiar with the example in the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam, and also conscious of the extreme rarity of these silverpoint sketchbooks, did not hesitate for a moment when he spotted the handsome German binding in the art market (fig. 3).

3. Silverpoint Sketchbook
Full binding in pale calf-skin with grooved flap, decorated with a framework of gold roulette and cold-rolled fillets on the boards; heraldic medallion and the date 1584 on the front board. – 193 × 130 × 20 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-R.1

The upper board of the book of tablets is adorned with the date 1584 and the medallion of the printer and binder Jacob Guldenmund (active around 1580-90); his name and profession are inscribed around the arms of the town of Amberg, where he was born and inherited his trade from his father. Although the binding’s spine was damaged and had to be submitted to the tender ministrations of Florence Malo, a restorer in the workshop of Coralie Barbe, the silverpoint used for drawing is still in place, which is rare. The tool terminates in an elegant episcopal cross and can be slipped between the three metal fastenings to keep the notebook closed.

The tafelet belonging to the Fondation Custodia contains eighteen pages which can be drawn on back and front thanks to the rigidity of the prepared parchment. It offers thirty-six pages to the budding draughtsman. Some of the sheets contain drawings by beginners, dating from the nineteenth rather than the sixteenth century: attempts at profile portraits (fig. 4) and some landscapes (fig. 5 and 6).

  • 4. Silverpoint Sketchbook, pages 18 and 19 (top)
    Silverpoint on prepared parchment. – 120 × 178 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-R.1
  • 5. Silverpoint Sketchbook, pages 8 and 9 (top)
    Silverpoint on prepared parchment. – 120 × 178 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-R.1
  • 6. Silverpoint Sketchbook, page 32
    Silverpoint on prepared parchment. – 120 × 178 mm Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2021-R.1

Two of the sketches bear notes in German, indicating that the notebook had not travelled far from the place where it was made. It is likely that the drawings were the work of one or several well-born children, into whose hands the notebook had fallen. Perhaps they lived in the large manor house sketched on one of the pages: ‘Das / Haus / Lauksche [?] / von hinten’ (the Lauksche [?] House from the back) which has not yet been identified (ill. 6).

Some tablet sketchbooks contain work by young artists that can be dated to c. 1600. These are usually copies of engravings, as is the case with the booklet in the Rijksmuseum and also the less well-known one in the Hood Museum of Art in Dartmouth, New Hampshire.2 Copies from engravings indicate that the authors of the drawings were still in training, as this exercise was one of the first steps in the apprentice draughtsman’s curriculum as specified in contemporary treatises in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Silverpoint sketchbooks were not in fact only used by those taking their first steps at drawing. Established artists used them for sketching, particularly when they were travelling. The pocket-sized format of these bound volumes and the dry metalpoint technique (no ink to be carried, no black chalk leaving tell-tale powder on garments) meant that these were very practical. Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) took a tablet sketchbook with him on his travels in the Low Countries; some pages survive on which he has drawn portraits or studies of buildings observed during his journey. Three landscapes by Rembrandt (1606-1669) are also known, executed on prepared parchment pages which must have been from a notebook.

The extreme rarity of these tafeletten is due to the fact that many of them were dismembered in order to extract the most interesting pages. An Van Camp, curator at the Ashmolean Museum, has recently inventoried a large number of drawings by Dutch and Flemish artists that were almost certainly originally pages from silverpoint sketchbooks.3 One of these, a charming study of his dog by Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), on the recto and the verso of the same page of a sketchbook, is now in the Fondation Custodia (fig. 7).

  • 7a. Hendrick Goltzius (Bracht (Brüggen) 1558 – 1617 Haarlem), Study of a Sleeping Dog, c. 1596
    Metalpoint and graphite on prepared yellow-coloured paper or parchment; framed by four lines in brush and gold. – 65 × 97 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 262
  • 7b. Hendrick Goltzius (Bracht (Brüggen) 1558 – 1617 Haarlem), Verso: Study of the Same Dog, Seen from the Back, c. 1596
    Metalpoint and graphite on prepared yellow-coloured paper or parchment; framed by four lines in brush and gold. – 65 × 97 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 262

Scientific analysis of the pages of the small notebook are soon to be carried out under the leadership of Corinne Letessier, conservator at the Fondation Custodia; this will determine the exact composition of the preparation applied to the parchment, and discover whether there are any earlier drawings lurking beneath the surface. Although Joseph Meder, in his celebrated book on drawing, Die Handzeichnung, noted as early as 1919 the importance of these silverpoint sketchbooks to artists of the calibre of Leonardo da Vinci or Albrecht Dürer, many decades were to pass before scholars would once more pay attention to such objects.4 By undertaking analysis of its freshly acquired silverpoint sketchbook, the Fondation Custodia hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the tafeletten.

Cécile Tainturier

1Ernst van de Wetering, Rembrandt. The Painter at Work, Amsterdam, 2000 (chapter III: “Lost Drawings and the Use of Erasable Drawing Boards and ‘Tafeletten’”).

2This notebook is being studied by curator Elizabeth Rice Mattison, to whom I am very grateful for the information she provided.

3Drawings by Hans Bol (1534-1593), Johannes Wierix (1549-1620), Jacques de Gheyn (III) (1596-1641), Crispijn de Passe (II) (1594/95-1670), Andries Both (1611-1642), Gillis van Tilborgh (1625-1678). An Van Camp, ‘Metalpoint Drawings in the Low Countries in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’, in Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns, exh. cat. Washington, National Gallery of Art, London, The British Museum, pp. 145-188. Most of these draughtsmen were also engravers for whom the technique of metalpoint, which is close to engraving, must have been particularly attractive.

4Die Handzeichnung. Ihre Technik und Entwicklung, Vienna, 1919 (English translation: The Mastery of Drawing, New York, 1978).

The Albums of Drawings of Louis Charles Hora Siccama

Three albums of drawings by the Dutch artist Louis Charles Hora Siccama (Utrecht 1807 – 1880 Utrecht), recently acquired by the Fondation Custodia, were the subject of comprehensive conservation and restoration work in 2020 and 2021.

Each of the albums contained about 200 drawings made by Hora Siccama during his journey from the Netherlands to the South of France in the mid nineteenth century. The small drawings, all carefully dated, located as to place and annotated, represent the landscapes, people and scenes from daily life encountered by the artist (fig. 1).

1. View of the interior of one of the conservation albums with the drawings in place

The graphic techniques used by the artist vary: graphite pencil and black chalk, brown ink, watercolour, white chalk and gouache for highlighting. He used white, blue and brown vellum.

2. State of preservation of the original binding of one of the albums

The three albums were probably created on his return from the trip, and they all pose similar problems of conservation: the nature of their materials, handling over the years and previous inadequate storage conditions have rendered the bindings extremely fragile (fig. 2), and also made the pages holding the drawings in each album very acid, consequently threatening the long-term survival of the drawings.

3. Example of a drawing yellowed by the acidity of the album’s pages
The visible stains in the upper part indicate the presence of molds

Many of the drawings have yellowed significantly, and there are stains caused by moisture and by the glue used to fix them (fig. 3). It was no longer acceptable to leave the albums in such a poor state of conservation, even in the ideal conditions offered by the storage facilities of the Fondation Custodia.

The drawings were therefore detached from their supports and treated individually. First the dirt and dust were removed, then aqueous treatment suited to the type of paper and the artist’s techniques was applied. The use of aqueous gels, made of a mixture of water and powdered gellane gum or agarose gel, allowed a gradual, controlled increase in humidity; this was combined with removal by suction of the products contributing to the degradation of the paper. This treatment proved particularly effective for the graphic techniques most susceptible to humidity such as gouache, or powdery materials such as white chalk.

4. Conservation bindings
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. nos. 2019-T.30 to 32

Once the treatment was completed, replicas of the original albums were made to hold the drawings (fig. 4). These conservation albums are designed with the same format, binding and paper colour as the originals. The drawings were then inserted, using the same layout as that designed by Hora Siccama. To secure them, a system of Japanese paper hinges gives access to the reverse side of the drawings.

The original bindings, historically significant in their own right, are also being conserved. They bear the traces of the positions of the drawings before they were removed.

Pauline Guidoni
Master’s degree 2 student in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, Université de Paris I

An inquiry into bench no. 5688

For many years, people coming to 121 rue de Lille – visitors to the library or to exhibitions, guests or residents – have been using the bench which stands in front of the giant mirror, over the tessellated paving on the ground floor of Hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix. They wait on it, or rest on it, probably without knowing that it dates from the eighteenth century and that it is an integral part of the collection of the Fondation Custodia, as revealed by the inventory number ‘I. 5688 F.L.’ painted in white on the reverse side of the back of the seat.

1. Rococo bench, eighteenth century
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 5688
Photo Philip Provily

With its curves, volutes and flowing lines reminiscent of the plant kingdom, the bench embodies the Dutch rococo style. The composition of the design is elegant but the symmetry of its presentation is rare, the rococo style generally favouring more variety and asymmetry.

2. Dolls’ house of Petronella Oortman, c. 1686-1710
255 × 190 × 28 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, inv. no. BK-NM-1010

This type of bench, made entirely of carved wood, was to be encountered in the hallways or gardens of Dutch houses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They are frequently mentioned in estate inventories and can be found in dolls’ houses, as in the one belonging to Petronella Oortman (fig. 2). Although quite uncomfortable in use, they contributed to the interior decoration and also provided somewhere to sit for visitors waiting to be received.

A huge inventory project was launched in 2021 to take stock of the antique furniture in the Fondation Custodia. It was undertaken by Anne-Zoé Le Gal, a student at the École du Louvre. The furniture inside Hôtels Turgot and Lévis-Mirepoix was systematically located, identified and its conservation status was checked. All pieces are part of the Collection Frits Lugt. Along with paintings, drawings, prints and other objets d’art, Lugt also acquired antique furniture. This was essentially Dutch or French and dated mainly from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Lange Vijverberg 14 in The Hague
Lange Vijverberg 15 in The Hague

Frits Lugt bought this bench from baron Michiels van Verduynen in 1939 for 50 florins. Wishing to move to The Hague, Frits Lugt and his wife acquired Lange Vijverberg number 14 in 1936 then, three years later, number 15 (fig. 3, 4), considered by Lugt to be ‘the finest old house in Vijverberg, particularly the interior’. Michiels van Verduynen was the owner. Frits Lugt was in the habit of buying a proportion of the furniture in any house he coveted, as he did in Paris some twenty years later when he bought the Hôtels Turgot and Lévis-Mirepoix, the present seat of the Fondation Custodia. In The Hague, he acquired various items of furniture: a Louis XV commode, sets of chairs and armchairs, dressers, wardrobes and cabinets. Amongst these the bench was one of the pieces saved from pillage during the Second World War of which Lugt was the victim.

During the war, Frits Lugt and his family went to live in Switzerland, then in the United States. Their property and the majority of their collection remained in The Hague and were entrusted to the care of Lugt’s assistant, Adriaan Louis Domis (1908-1979). In the absence of the Lugt family, Domis proved utterly unreliable. He collaborated with the occupying Germans and sold a great number of belongings and works of art. On his return to Europe, Frits Lugt undertook a very thorough search to retrieve as much as possible of the property stolen from him during the war. He managed to regain part of his collection, but many objects and works of art could not be traced.

5. Dining room, Hôtel Turgot, Paris
Photo Philip Provily

Of the furniture bought from Michiels van Verduynen, he only succeeded in recovering our bench, no. 5688, and some of the Chippendale-style chairs now in the dining room in Hôtel Turgot (fig. 5).

Frits Lugt appears to have assembled this antique furniture not only for daily use, but also because these were collectors’ items with heritage value. This double consideration continues at the Fondation Custodia, as is the case of the rococo bench that has been receiving visitors since the eighteenth century.

Maud Guichané

Drawings of Rembrandt and his circle published in Collection Online

In October last year, 166 drawings of Rembrandt and his circle were added to our online collection database, which already contained the Italian drawings.

Frits Lugt and Rembrandt

The works of Rembrandt and his circle received special attention in the database as this is an important section among the holdings of the Fondation Custodia. They were for the most part acquired by the collector Frits Lugt (1884-1970), himself a connoisseur of Rembrandt drawings. Indeed, Lugt, considering the group a key element, arranged the works separately from his other Dutch 17th-century sheets in special albums dedicated to Rembrandt and his circle.

Pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash, some corrections in white bodycolour, some lines in red and black chalk. – 142 × 177 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 266

At a young age already, Lugt developed an interest in Rembrandt. He would continue to admire the master’s work during his entire life, studying and collecting his drawings and prints. In 1899, at the age of 15, he bought his first Rembrandt etching (albeit a posthumous impression). In 1918, he succeeded in acquiring two of the seven surviving letters written by Rembrandt. And a year later, the first Rembrandt drawing entered his collection. This drawing Interior with Saskia in Bed is now one of the major works in the collection (fig. 1). Lugt noted himself about this work: “Rembrandt repeatedly drew his Saskia in her sickbed or in her confinement, but none of these drawings was done with so much devotion and care as this. The effect is of a small painting”.

As a specialist of drawings and prints of Rembrandt, Lugt made some important publications, notably one about the landscape drawings by the master (Wandelingen met Rembrandt in en om Amsterdam, 1915), and the catalogue of Rembrandt drawings in the musée du Louvre in Paris published in 1933. He never established a catalogue of his own collection though.

Catalogue by Peter Schatborn

It was the Rembrandt drawing expert Peter Schatborn who studied and published the group of drawings in 2010 in an important two-volume catalogue: Rembrandt and his circle. Drawings in the Frits Lugt Collection. It is this catalogue that forms the basis for the information on the drawings in the online collection database.

Pen and brown ink, brown wash, some lines scratched in the wet ink with the end of the brush, some corrections in white bodycolour. – 164 × 129 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 4502

Schatborn’s publication contains 165 numbers, no less than 21 of which are considered by him to be of Rembrandt’s hand. Schatborn proposed one or two changes in attributions concerning the master and in particular attributed a drawing of a Seated Old Man, that had reminded Frits Lugt of Salomon Koninck (1609-1656), to Rembrandt for stylistic reasons (fig. 2).

The other numbers concern works by his pupils and artists from his circle. In 2010, a deliberate choice was made to have a large selection, not restricting the catalogue to Rembrandt’s School, but also including works from his immediate predecessors (the so-called pre-Rembrandtists), his circle, and even some copies, largely following the arrangement Lugt had made in his abovementioned albums. In two cases however, the selection rather followed the artists referenced by Werner Sumowski in his ten volumes on the Rembrandt School drawings (1979-1992). Indeed, although Lugt had put the drawings by Abraham Rutgers (c. 1632-1699) in his albums of the Rembrandt School, – even if he was not a Rembrandt pupil –, they were not included by Sumowski nor by Schatborn. As for the drawings by Roelant Roghman (1627-1692), who was not one of Rembrandt’s pupils either but was a friend of the artist, they were published by Sumowski and Peter Schatborn (even though Lugt had not stored the Roghman drawings in his Rembrandt School albums).

Pen and brown ink, point of the brush and brown ink, brown and grey wash. – 156 × 250 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 866

In his catalogue Schatborn proposes for the first time attributions of a large number of drawings that had until then been listed as Anonymous or School of Rembrandt. These attributions are not all definitive and indeed several suggestions he made are still under discussion, as is the case with a group of drawings belonging to the so-called ‘Pseudo Victors group’. It received its name because many authors considered the likely maker to have been Jan Victors (1619–1676). Several proposals for attributions have since been made, most importantly Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693) and Justus de Gelder (1650-after 1707), the latter being a stepson of Maes. The Fondation Custodia conserves five drawings of this group (fig. 3). Peter Schatborn published them in 2010 as attributed to Justus de Gelder (inv. nos. 866, 6694, 1971-T.28, 5198, 6963), but in the recent Nicolaes Maes exhibition catalogue of 2020, Marijn Schapelhouman thinks that the group of drawings could be the work of a young Maes.

Collection Online

In the collection database, the information given in Schatborn’s catalogue has been updated with these recent attributions and publications. We have endeavoured to be as complete as possible, starting with the reviews of Schatborn’s catalogue, as they sometimes contain alternative attributions. Other important publications, for example Holm Bever’s 2018 catalogue of Rembrandt School drawings in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, have been referred to when a drawing in the Fondation Custodia is mentioned. References to some online catalogues have been included as well, such as the revised version of Benesch’s catalogue raisonné of Rembrandt drawings compiled by Martin Royalton-Kisch, started in 2012 and still in progress. This is also the case for the online catalogues that the Rijksmuseum is actively working on, namely Drawings by Rembrandt and his School in the Rijksmuseum (an update of Peter Schatborn’s catalogue of 1985), as well as Dutch Drawings of the Seventeenth Century in the Rijksmuseum. The entries in these online catalogues now contain links to the database of the Fondation Custodia when a drawing of our holdings is mentioned.

Regarding older publications, the records comprise a selective bibliography. Where relevant, the Benesch and Sumowski numbers of the drawings are given as it has become customary to use them as references for respectively the Rembrandt and the Rembrandt School drawings.

Finally, it was possible to make some small corrections after checking the drawings themselves once again. For example, in line with the Rijksmuseum online catalogues, we have made a distinction between drawings on prepared paper (coating with a gesso-like ground) and paper toned with coloured ink wash. Rembrandt used paper tinted with a light brown wash during the second half of the 1630s and some of his pupils seem to have employed the same technique from time to time. The application of the wash on the paper is often very subtle though and not easily verified as even under magnification it is difficult to distinguish.

Black chalk, brown wash, on blue paper. – 177 × 258 mm
Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 6666

We have also looked anew to the inscriptions on the drawings given that since the publication of our reference database on collectors’ marks on prints and drawings, www.marquesdecollections.fr, new insights have arisen. Especially a number inscribed in the lower right corner of a drawing by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621-1674), Moses Stepping on Pharaoh’s Crown (fig. 4), was recognised as the one associated to the famous French collector Pierre Crozat (1665-1740). The number (published in our collectors’ marks database as Lugt 3612) and the prestigious provenance have now been added.

In general, a fresh look was taken at the provenances when there were doubts about their accuracy. For example a drawing by Rembrandt, A Woman Stealing from the Pocket of a Drunken Man (inv. no. 5993), was thought to have come from the collection of Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), but another drawing, kept in the musée du Louvre in Paris (inv. RF 4731,) corresponds in fact better to the description in the Haden sale of 1891.

We hope that publishing our holdings of drawings by Rembrandt and his circle online may lead to further insights and will help future research. In the coming years, we will be updating the database with other works of art. At the moment we are preparing the publication of Rembrandt’s etchings, planned for the end of March, the French 19th-century drawings, the Flemish and Dutch Old Master paintings, and part of the collection of artists’ letters and manuscripts (French autographs from the 14th to the 17th centuries).

Rhea Sylvia Blok

Treasures of the Fondation Custodia

The new series of videos Treasures of the Fondation Custodia highlights works from the Fondation’s collections, introduced by its curators and librarians. Three videos are currently to be discovered.

Curator Laurence Lhinares has chosen to present a dossier devoted to Louis Albert Guislain Bacler d’Albe (1761-1824), Napoleon’s cartographer.

This dossier, purchased by the Fondation Custodia in 1999, was put together by Louis Philippe Joseph Girod de Vienney, Baron de Trémont. A former state councillor and prefect of the Empire, he had a collection of autographs considered to be one of the most important of the period.

The dossier consists primarily of a letter dated 1 October 1808, written by Bacler d’Albe and addressed to Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825), then director of the musée du Louvre. In it, Bacler d’Albe mentions his painting Napoleon I visiting the bivouacs on the eve of the battle of Austerlitz.

Alongside this letter, the dossier contains an engraved portrait of Bacler d’Albe by Godefroy Engelmann, after Charles-Étienne Le Guay, as well as a small drawing (7 × 11 cm) in Bacler d’Albe’s hand, which is very different from the other graphic works we know of the painter.

Treasures of the Fondation Custodia 1 | The Bacler d’Albe dossier

In the second video, Cécile Raymond, assistant librarian, focuses on the art dealers’ catalogues that can be consulted by everyone on the fourth floor of the Hôtel Lévis-Mirepoix, in the library of the Fondation Custodia.

Among the thousands of works devoted to the history of art kept in the library, the Fondation Custodia has a large collection of dealers’ catalogues (from nearly 700 different institutions). These documents are published by the art dealers themselves, sometimes at the time of an exhibition, in order to give their clients a description of the works they offer for sale.

In the catalogues, they disclose their research in complete entries, with bibliographical notes, constituting a considerable source of information on these artworks. In recent years these catalogues have been reorganised and completed at the library. They are progressively entered into the SUDOC (collective catalogue of French research libraries) and are thus more visible and accessible to readers. They can be consulted at the library of the Fondation Custodia by appointment.

Treasures of the Fondation Custodia 2 | The library of art dealers' catalogues

Who was Margaret Lemon, the young lady depicted in the 17th-century portrait miniature kept at the Fondation Custodia? Clad in men’s clothes, she stares at us haughtily and has long been an enigma for art historians.

A renowned beauty in London’s higher circles, this young woman who was the mistress of the painter Anthony van Dyck at the pinnacle of his career is described by 17th-century sources as dangerous and tremendously free. The Fondation Custodia’s collection includes a total of five portraits of Margaret Lemon, and recent discoveries with regard to the tragic destiny of this spirited muse shed a new light on these works of art.

This video’s host, curator Cécile Tainturier, invites you to find out more about her.

Treasures of the Fondation Custodia 3 | Margaret Lemon: Portrait of a spirited woman

Library: artists, nature, travel and landscape

Our founder Frits Lugt would walk around Amsterdam trying to establish where Rembrandt may have sketched (from life) his landscapes, farms and polders. Going out and travelling have been more or less banned activities of late. During the period of lockdown, the library team have continued to acquire books, periodicals and catalogues so that the Fondation’s curators could carry on with their research and writing, and with preparing exhibitions. Fortunately, the library has been open again to readers from outside, by appointment, since spring 2021. Here is a small selection of recently-arrived titles. We were inspired by the exhibition True to Nature. Open-air Painting 1780-1870.

Kenneth McConkey, 2021

McConkey transports us around the world to illustrate the way British travellers, with their cameras and canvases, made works of art to memorialise scenes and experiences in Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India and Japan. He presents a whole generation of painters who trained in art schools and artists’ colonies in Europe – the educational cradle for those setting out to explore life and landscape in the wider world. Richly illustrated, the book investigates a wide range of artists including Frank Brangwyn, Mary Cameron, Alfred East, John Lavery, Arthur Melville and Mortimer Menpes.

Monica Tomiato, 2021

Born in Alexandria, died in Rome in the early days of the twentieth century, Pietro Sassi, the landscape painter, has always been a ‘little-known’ artist. Thanks to painstaking research in the archives, plus the discovery of innumerable unpublished works and the collaboration of his descendants – who gave access to documents, photographs of the period and the artist’s notebooks – Monica Tomiato has been able to recreate his activity and set it in context, from the early days in his native Piedmont to the final moments of his almost thirty-year residence in Rome.

Knut Ljøgodt, 2020

The private collection of Pal Gundersen contains the largest group of works by Peder Balke in the world. In this catalogue, Knut Ljøgodt retraces the artist’s life, taking us on a voyage through the sublime landscapes of the far North.



Thomas Herbig, 2020

Dreber was trained by Ludwig Richter at the Academy in Dresden. In 1843, a legacy made it possible for him to travel to Italy. After a stay on Lake Garda, then in Venice and Florence, he moved to Rome. The Eternal City and its surroundings, the Roman Campagna, the Colle Albani and the Sabine Hills exercised such a strong hold on him that he spent most of the rest of his life in Rome. Dreber studied the natural world closely as a draughtsman, but never painted from life. Thomas Herbig helps us to discover his graphic output.

Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, 2021

Dealers’ catalogues are an important section in the library, as you can appreciate from this video on our website. Guy Peppiatt and Sarah Hobrough lead us through nineteenth-century England, thanks to this catalogue of the exhibition of paintings, drawings and watercolours by artists of the Bristol School – also shown at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux last summer.

DESHIMA n° 14/2020 : Géographies et imaginaires

The Association Pour les Etudes Nordiques, based at the University of Strasburg, publishes the specialised annual journal Deshima. In the most recent issue, Géographie et imaginaires, you can read, among others, an essay by Margot Damiens on travellers’ tales on the island of Rügen around 1800 or the article by Francesca Fabbri, Adele Schopenhauer. La communauté danoise à Rome et les paysages du Nord.

New Publication

Peter Vos. 333 Birds

From time immemorial people have been fascinated by birds and have created images of their winged companions. The artist Peter Vos (1935-2010) was one of them. He kept bird diaries in which he noted down the birds he came across and captured them in pen and ink and watercolour. He took pleasure in entrusting all elements of a bird to paper – their characteristics, but mostly their characters. Hunched down or in full stretch, in the water and on land, on their behinds, their necks turned ninety or a hundred and eighty degrees, foreshortened or in three-quarter view, preening their plumage and their wings poised for flight: Peter Vos often depicted his birds several times on one sheet so that you really get to know them.

333 Birds was a project, a task Vos set himself: fill an empty book with 333 birds drawn as beautifully as possible. He completed it over a period of eighteen months – from June 1980 to December 1981. He began by going to zoos to sketch the birds. Days later the sketches were worked out in the book. With the meticulous layout and the Latin names, Vos was referencing the field guides and the nineteenth-century books of plates. But he, unlike the creators of those books, was trying to draw the individual bird not the species. Crooked feathers are not straightened, an odd pose uncorrected and the blind eye simply drawn. Peter Vos’s drawings are records of his encounters with individual birds.

  • Peter Vos (Utrecht 1935 – 2010 Utrecht), 333 Birds
    Plate 52: Two boreal owls (Aegolius funereus), 4.III.’81, 7.III.’81 | Plate 53: Brown wood-owl (Strix leptogrammica), 26.IX.’81 and two tawny owls (Strix aluco), 28.X.’81
    Graphite and watercolour. – 195 × 115 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2017-T.57
  • Peter Vos (Utrecht 1935 – 2010 Utrecht), 333 Birds
    Plate 60: Two northern lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), 31.III.’81, 1.IV.’81 | Plate 61: Two southern Lapwings (Vanellus chilensis), 18.IX.’81
    Graphite and watercolour. – 195 × 115 mm
    Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris, inv. no. 2017-T.57

We should see 333 Birds as an expression of curiosity for his companions. He loved those winged friends he presents to us in a long line in all their glory and individualities – true to nature and with an understanding of their characters, honestly, as befits friends.

Facsimile of a sketchbook by Peter Vos
Introductory texts by Jan Piet Filedt Kok, Ger Luijten and Siegfried Woldhek

Peter Vos. 333 Birds
Bussum, THOTH Publishers and Paris, Fondation Custodia, 2021
2 volumes: facsimile 320 pages | booklet 95 pages, 350 colour illustrations, 19,5 × 11,5 cm, softcover with case, in English (also available in French and Dutch)
ISBN 978 90 6868 846 7
44,95 €

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.

The information supplied by you through this form is collected by the Fondation Custodia in order to process your order. In accordance with the law Informatique et Libertés of 6 January 1978, modified, and with the Règlement Général sur la Protection des Données, you have the legal right to access your data, to rectify them, to restrict them, to transfer them or to suppress them. In order to exercise these rights, you can contact the Fondation Custodia, 121 rue de Lille, 75007 Paris, +33 (0)1 47 05 75 19, coll.lugt@fondationcustodia.fr. To find out more about our Privacy Policy.