Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Louvre During the War

by Lauren Stewart-Ebert

The Venus de Milo is prepared for transport

The Louvre in Paris is one of the most cherished museums in the world. In 1939, when the threat of war with Germany was becoming apparent, some 400,000 artifacts and pieces of art were moved in a remarkable feat of organization and speed.

This event was documented in candid shots by several photographers, chief among them Pierre Jahan. The Louvre is currently exhibiting a collection of these pictures, many which have never been on public display before.

Pierre Jahan

The most striking of the photographs show the museum as few have ever seen it: vacant. The Grande Galerie extends devoid of its floor to ceiling paintings, left with only empty frames.

The Grande Galerie

A photograph from 1942 shows a gallery previously filled with the works of Rembrandt. The walls are bare but for the names of the paintings which hung there, written in chalk where the artwork once was.

A photograph taken in June of 1945 shows the unwrapping of the museum’s most famous holding, the Mona Lisa.

On August 28, 1939 the Mona Lisa had been carefully wrapped in layers of waterproof paper, crated, and taken to the French countryside where it would be safe from the bombings Paris would have to endure. On September 3, France declared war on Germany.

Troops marching in front of the Louvre

Of course, not all of the museum’s holdings could be so easily packed and moved.

Moving the Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace was painstakingly removed from her pedestal with a series of ropes and pullies then wheeled out of the museum on a specially installed ramp. One she was packed into a crate, the arduous task of moving her to the French countryside began.

A crate is prepared for The Winged Victory

But she was not alone, as the citizens of Paris fled the city, so too did thousands of crated statues and artifacts.

When the war was over, these pieces were gradually returned to the Louvre. A photo taken in June 1945 shows Eugene Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”, as it is carried back into the gallery. The return of this iconic piece, captured on film, communicates the emotional connection between people and art.

“Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix, 1830

The Louvre during the War – Photographs 1938-1947 runs through August 31st.
For more information visit the Louvre’s website.

Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 04:30:00 PM
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Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Château de Gourdon

by Lauren Stewart-Ebert

Located about thirty miles west of the French Mediterranean city of Nice is the small town of Gourdon. This medieval village is the home of the Château de Gourdon. Initially built as a fortress high on a rocky bluff during the Middle Ages, it has been transformed over the centuries into the spectacular castle (and museum) it is today.

Although the architecture dates to the 9th century, the interior holds a spectacular collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces in what is now the “Musée des Arts Décoratifs et de la Modernité”.

The first floor of the museum houses one-of-a-kind pieces, both prototypes and personal creations by artists such as Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, Alfons Mucha, and Louis Sue.

The “Tardieu Bed” was designed by Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann for the French Prime Minister, André Tardieu.

An office setting with pieces by Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann and Alfons Mucha.

The second floor of the castle is devoted to the Union of Modern Artists (U.A.M) and features the personal effects of Eileen Gray, Pierre Chareau, Francis Jourdain, and Jean Prouvé.

The personal bedroom of Eileen Gray, featuring her Bibendum chair and E-1027 side table.

A living space features a Jean Prouvé Cité armchair with ottoman.

A collection of armchairs designed by Pierre Chareau.
The Château de Gourdon also boasts a series of stunning gardens designed by André Le Nôtre, the renowned landscape architect responsible for the gardens of Versailles.

The perfectly manicured boxwoods in the Italian Terrace.

The Terrace of Honor with its shade trees and trimmed hedges.
This remarkable castle has survived through the ages and serves as a reflection on the decorative and architectural history of France.

For more information about the Château de Gourdon:
Telephone : +33 4 93 09 68 02
Fax : +33 4 93 09 68 97
Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 06:40:00 PM
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Monday, July 06, 2009

French Empire Still Reigns Supreme on Bidding Floor in Drouot Paris…

By Lauren Stewart-Ebert

This stunning French Empire period “bureau plat” (writing table) recently sold at Drouot in Paris for a robust $220,000. Although the piece was originally estimated at only $12,000 to $17,000, it was perhaps the attribution to François-Honore Georges Jacob-Desmalter (the designer of furniture for Empress Josephine) that encouraged the bidding.
Napoleonic furniture usually features exotic woods (in this case, yew wood and mahogany) and elaborate ormolu mounts.

French Empire secretary in amboyna veneer mounted on pine with ormolu mounts, c. 1815.

French Empire “athenienne” (washstand) in yew wood with ormolu mounts, c. 1814.

The Empire style stands apart from prior eras in French design because it was strongly influenced by outside sources. An evocation of Egyptian, Greek and Roman style is evident in the furniture and the architectural elements of the period.

Marble and bronze fireplace with Egyptian motif.

Napoleon’s apartment at the Louvre in Paris.

Such high quality pieces are increasingly hard to find with each passing year. This French Empire writing table will not only be an aesthetic pleasure to its new owner, but also a significant investment…
Posted by Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques at 04:45:00 PM
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