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18th century France

"La fontaine de Minerve à Rome", Hubert Robert, 1772
"La fontaine de Minerve à Rome", Hubert Robert, 1772

The large glass-roofed gallery on the second floor is entirely devoted to 18th century French painting and is one of the museum’s highlights. The collection is presented both chronologically and thematically.

The reign of Louis XV (1723-1774)

The Enlightenment was a time of flourishing artistic and intellectual expression. History painting, deemed to be austere, was replaced by a lighter style of painting, where colour took the place of drawing and mythology allowed for the depiction of sensuality. This is evident through Fragonard’s works, in several paintings such as Céphale et Procris, Jupiter et Callisto, as well as by Jean-François de Troy’s works; David et Bethsabée. Boucher and Hallé produced great painted works for Madame de Pompadour; Réunion des Arts and Réunion des Sciences.

The theme of Fêtes galantes [Translator’s note: outdoor entertainment or rural festivals] was a genre that appeared in the 18th century and depicted a romantic scene against the backdrop of a rural or festive atmosphere and is captured to perfection by Antoine Watteau in his La déclaration attendue. Fragonard’s La Poursuite and La Surprise and his followers Lancert (Repas de noces and Danse de noces), Pater (Le Bal champêtre, Les Baigneuses) and Lajoüe also elaborate this theme.

Still life ‘the silent life of the 18th century’, although considered a minor genre, found an uncontested master in Jean-Baptiste Chardin. His three small paintings: Pêches et prunes, Corbeille de raisins avec trois pommes d’api, une poire et deux massepains and Fruits, bouteille et pot de faïence beautifully and masterfully illustrate this genre.

The reign of Louis XVI (1774-1792)

Under the reign of Louis XVI, there was a movement away from the ‘rocaille’ style that had dominated the first half of the century, with a return to a more antique style; neoclassicism.
The discovery of the ruins at Pompeii in 1748 aroused a veritable passion for Antiquity, allowing artists to seek inspiration from an antique repertoire through architecture, sculpture and historical themes. Intentionally-theatrical large compositions attributed to Ménageot, Cléopatre rendant un dernier hommage au tombeau de Marc-Antoine, Berthélémy, Vien or Vincent, Le combat des Romains et des Sabins interrompu par les femmes Sabines exalt the virtues of such a style and celebrate the ‘ideal of beauty’.
There are many sculptures on display here, including amongst others the Portrait « à l’antique » de Voltaire by Jean-François Houdon.
The collection of an amateur. A small room at the end of this section of the gallery pays tribute to Louis-Eveillard de Livois (1736-1790), an Angevin collector from the 18th century, whose beautiful collection of 17th and 18th century paintings form the core of the museum’s collections. Collectors like Louis-Eveillard de Livois who bought the oeuvres of their contemporaries, were often behind the creation of the very first museums during or after the Revolution. In this room, the paintings are hung very closely together, reflecting the taste of collectors at the time, desirous to fully enjoy the entirety of their collections. Next to mythological subjects, (Théaulon, Offrande à l’amour; Lucas, Fragonard, La nymphe Io et Jupiter) and landscapes of ruins (Hubert Robert, La fontaine de Minerve à Rome; Barbault, Ruines avec la pyramide de Sextius, Le Barbier), themes dear to Livois, are some portraits, including a piece by Greuze, Portrait présumé de madame de Porcin.

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