Musée-château de Villevêque : the collections
Daniel Duclaux’s collection is a journey through the history of art and its varying techniques. It encompasses several European countries (France, Italy, Flanders, Germany…) but also highlights Europe’s burgeoning relationship with the Orient. The evolution of the arts from the 12th to the 16th century, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, can be perceived in the main artistic movements of this time, as well as through regional characteristics or specificities.
A backwards journey from the Renaissance to the Middle Ages presents objets d’art created using various and varied techniques: Hispano-Moresque and Italian pottery, bronze statues from Italy (15th and 16th centuries), enamels from Limoges (12th century), heads of the Apostles in stone (13th century), polychrome wooden sculptures from the 15th century, tapestries, etc.
Attention is drawn to some of the more exceptional oeuvres and objets d’art. Amongst the beautiful collection of Middle Age sculptures, let us dwell on a remarkable Vierge de l’Annonciation (Virgin of the Annunciation), from the Siena school, dating from the early 15th century. Its slender silhouette and similarities to the Annonciation by San Gimignano liken it to the art of Jacopo della Quercia. However, this piece has often been attributed to Giovanni di Turino (c. 1385-1455).
The collection also contains a large number of Italian ceramics including a magnificent dish from the first half of the 16th century, representing Parnassus. The dish was made in Urbino and can be viewed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Angers. Pegasus is visible in the foreground, in the middle Apollo converses with the Muses and poets. This detailed composition after a famous engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi was inspired by a drawing by Raphael.
Numerous enamel art pieces also form part of the collection, including notably, a gadroon cup, made in Venice, c. 1500 (a gadroon is a hollow adornment or protruding egg-shaped decoration along the edges of silverware). The value of such precious objects made them the reserve of wealthy, princely families.
In terms of larger, more monumental pieces, ancient furniture has an important place amongst the pieces collected by Daniel Duclaux. Some are modest, others more luxurious, such as the two-body walnut cabinet, made in the Burgundy region, around 1590 and decorated with reliefs representing the four seasons, after engravings by Jacob Matham (Haarlem).
The most spectacular piece of this legacy is surely La Condamnation de Banquet. This tapestry was woven at the beginning of the 16th century in Tournai. Although the author of this piece is unknown, it undoubtedly passed through the hands of Jean Grenier, a tapestry merchant and workshop foreman. This work is a fragment of a larger piece based on a morality play published in 1507 by Nicolas de La Chesnay, entitled La Condamnation de Banquet (The Condemnation of Banquet). Banquet lays a trap for his guests, who succumb to gluttony. They are punished by illness and indigestion, the culprit is judged and condemned for his misdeed. The Angers tapestry illustrates the assault of illness in the banqueting hall.
The tapestries bequeathed by Daniel Duclaux and his significant collection of ancient fabrics have been added to the collections of the city of Angers’ museums. Along with the tapestry of the Apocalypse, housed at the Château d’Angers, they offer a complete vision of the evolution of textile art in the Middle Ages.