For some months now the musée Denon has been working on a global project on the nature, the wealth and the coherence of its collections. This will allow the museum to integrate the fine arts museum and the museum of Archaeology into one single entity, the musée d’Arts et d’Histoire (the Arts and History museum). In September 2010, as a first result of this project an archaeology room dedicated to the Gallo-Roman civilization, Cabilonnum à la croisée des Gaules romaines was inaugurated. Now we have the opening of a room dedicated to Vivant Denon, the first director of today’s Louvre museum and a person who contributed to diffuse the history of the arts and the arrival of the science of archaeology at the beginning of the XIXth century.
A room for Vivant Denon
Dominique-Vivant DENON (Chalon sur Saône, 1747 - Paris, 1825) Self portrait, drawing in the country side Etching
Gift of Mme Catherine Benda, 2008
Until this date the works by Vivant Denon had only been presented in the museum that bears his name in temporary exhibitions offering one aspect of the man’s various facets. Today, thanks to the purchase of other works and the research carried out, a permanent exhibition room can be dedicated to him. A large part of this fund was bought with the help of the société des Amis du musée Denon, the DRAC de Bourgogne and the Regional procurement Fund for the museums of Burgundy, under the advice of the museum’s Scientific Committee, chaired by Pierre Rosenberg from the Académie française, and honorary president of the Louvre museum. A great number of donors have also generously contributed to the development of this collection. The cité de la céramique de Sèvres and the municipal library of Chalon made deposits that reinforce the museum’s funds.
A polymorphic talent
Whether in the contemporary hagiographic stories or in more recent fiction or documented biographies, Vivant Denon (Chalon-sur-Saône, 1747 – Paris, 1825) is shown with various sides to his personality: a libertine author, the man who uncovered Egyptian art, the first director of the Louvre museum, the minister of the Arts under the Empire as well as diplomat, drawer, engraver… His artistic production includes both the written word and graphics, to the point that we can define the artist Dominique-Vivant Denon as a «professional amateur». He was named director of the central Arts museum in 1802, soon to be the Napoleon museum and now the Louvre museum. But Vivant Denon was also in charge of other museum and manufacturing institutions. All of the contemporary, artistic production was thus assembled under his authority. He was responsible for the orders made out to artists, and organized the disclosure of the images of power. Denon then implemented the Imperial artistic policy by conjugating contemporary creation, the organization of the modern museum and the circulation of art. From the beginning the idea of a museum was inexorably associated to the reproduction of works of art.
Down to Italy
Franz Richard Unterberger (Innsbruck, 1838 - Neuilly sur Seine, 1902) Neapolitan fischermen Opl on panel, 45 x 33 cm Paris, private collection
The musée Denon is not only opening its new room dedicated to Vivant Denon, but it is also inaugurating a new temporary exhibition on his trips to Italy. After Les itinéraires de Vivant Denon, Naples et Pompéi (Vivant Denon’s travels to Naples and Pompei), presented in November 2009, we had left Vivant Denon in Naples, back from an adventurous but cultural expedition to the south of Italy at the end of the XVIIIth century. The book published, Voyage pittoresque ou description des Royaumes de Naples et de Sicile, between 1781 and 1786 based on stories by Denon and his drawing companions reinforced the visual myth of Italy. This new exhibition sounds other funds (the Niépce museum, the Bibliothèque municipale of Lyon, private collections, etc.) to try to draw out a form of follow-up, that would bring Denon’s adventure and the singularity of Italy in the travel stories of the XIXth and XXth centuries closer to us.
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