Thursday, 18 November 2010

Louvre Appeal - Cranach's Three Graces

The Louvre Museum in Paris has launched an unprecedented appeal for individual donors to purchase a masterpiece by Lucas Cranach, The Three Graces, painted in 1531.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), The Three Graces
Private Collection

An excellent dedicated multimedia website has been set up by the Louvre, with detailed analysis of the work and its history.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Three Graces
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
This initiative of the museum is intended to secure the acquisition of this small picture by the German master, which its owner has put up for sale for four million euro. "We have assembled three-quarters of the sum, so this is a last effort to make this painting part of the national collections," said Henri Loyrette, president of the Louvre. Never displayed in public, the painting has remained in private collections since its creation in the sixteenth century. It is far superior to Cranach's more famous representation of the same subject, in Kansas City, USA.

The Three Graces, a small picture (24 cm x 37 cm), shows three young women naked on a dark background. It was probably a private commission, and this objet d'art has been in the collection of the same French owner since 1932. The identity of the three young women is also a mystery. "Does it represent the three Graces as suggested by the title of the painting, or is it, as some scholars believe, an allegorical representation of Charity, Friendship and Fidelity. The problem is reinforced by the surprising postures of each of the girls," says the dedicated website in its presentation of the painting. "The astonishing perfection of the work, its rarity and the remarkable state of preservation allowed it to be declared a National Treasure, " the Louvre explained. For Vincent Pomarède, Director of Paintings at the Louvre "it is a work at the same time fun, troubling, mysterious, and extremely sensual." Mr. Loyrette is convinced that the painting "could become a kind of icon" of the museum.

Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), Diana and Actaeon
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
This appeal for individual donors is a first in France, but is commonplace in other countries. Thus in Great Britain, the Tate Gallery was able to purchase in 2008 a drawing by Rubens, The Apotheosis of James I (1628), a treasure of the English national heritage. Its then owner, Viscount Hampden, was threatening to sell it abroad. After launching a public appeal, the Tate purchased it for £5.7 million. More dramatically, the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland managed to raise around £50 million from private donors (individuals and businesses) for a Titian painting, Diana and Acteon (1559), acquired in 2008 from the Duke of Sutherland. For the Louvre to purchase the Cranach, donors have until 31st January to make their donations directly online or by requesting a form. Like donations to NGOs or associations of public benefit, payments will be tax deductible up to 66%. The list of individual donors will be published by the Louvre, excluding the names of donors requesting anonymity.

Persons donating more than €200 will have the privilege of admiring the painting on a private visit and those giving more than €500 can discover this little masterpiece prior to its public display.

A reminder about the public appeal for donations for Breughel the Younger's Procession to Calvary, featured in an earlier post, which closes at Christmas.

Jonathan Jones has a feature on this piece on the Guardian website.
Official page for donations.

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